Optimism Associations With Well-being Indicators Among Older People In The U.S.




Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Social Work


Introduction This study is an analysis of associations between optimism and other psychological well-being indicators among people over age 65 in the U.S. The analysis is based on a stratified random sample collected in 2001 (Wave 1) with a 2004 follow up (Wave 2). The original survey was restricted to African American and Caucasian respondents who were "Christian." The purpose of this study is to provide social workers a better understanding of the function of well-being, particularly optimism, among older people.

Literature Review Literature comparing well-being indicators to optimism among older populations is very limited. There are a few studies that compare older and younger groups in their level of well-being, and some include optimism as an indicator of well-being. However, few existing studies attempted to control for more than one or two well-being indicators as when considering optimisms' association to particular components of well-being.

Methods Using an existing database, baseline demographics and well-being indicators were compared in chi-square and multiple regression equations to consider relationships between optimism, the demographics and other well-being indicators. Baseline demographics and well-being indicator scores, including optimism, were then compared to changes in other indicator scores between Wave 1 and Wave 2. Finally, baseline demographics and well-being indicator scores were compared to Wave 2 scores to determine which most strongly predicted future scores in optimism and the other well-being indicators.

Data Analysis and Implication The baseline comparison all of the well-being indicators, except depression, had significant associations with optimism. However, only self-reported health, forgiveness of others and self-esteem predicted changes in optimism over time or future optimism independent of baseline optimism. Additionally, perceived personal control, self-esteem and death anxiety appeared to influence changes in optimism scores indirectly through baseline optimism scores.