Table of Contents
Personal Factors • • • Personality Personal Control Age
Environmental Factors • • • Physical health Living Arrangements Social Support and Social Networks
The satisfaction or happiness of the human race has always been a central theme in the humanities. Life satisfaction is conceptualized as one of the cognitive components of subjective well being, and refers to the global judgments people make about the quality of their lives (Diener et al., 2003). This means that people can examine the condition in their lives, weigh the importance of these conditions and evaluate their lives on a scale ranging from satisfied to dissatisfied. The concept of life satisfaction has been used interchangeably with the concepts happiness, well-being and quality of life in previous literature, which has resulted in confusion regarding the distinctness of these concepts. There is evidence that suggests that happiness and life satisfaction are related concepts, due to the fact that they share 60 % common variance, but they are not identical. Research on life satisfaction and its relationship to age has been carried out for decades, much of which yielded mixed results. Earlier research initially concluded that life satisfaction decreased as an individual aged (eg. Bradburn, 1969; Bradburn & Caplovitz, 1965). It is therefore believed that as a person gets older, levels of happiness decreased. This led to the popular misunderstanding that aging leads to unhappiness, due to the fact that people in this developmental stage tend to experience significant emotional/personal and environmental changes.These changes can also be seen as determinants or factors that influence life satisfaction. Personal (internal) factors may constitute amongst others: personality, mental health, age, gender and even religious beliefs. Environmental (external) factors includes physical health, social network supportiveness; social and physical activity; living arrangement; marital status; socio-economic status, and sociopolitical and sociocultural influences. Our objective in this paper is to explore these factors and how they influence life satisfaction in late adulthood. With late adulthood individuals may have accrued considerable life experience, which may be considered a significant internal resource. However, they may also have huge external resources in health and socio economic status.
Internal Factors or internal resources are an individual’s psychology, such as an individual’s personality and accumulated life experience.Studies done by Hattingh and Maddox (as cited in Louw, Van Ede &Louw) indicate that the degree of life satisfaction for most people remains fairly consistent throughout their lives. This reveals that the way individuals adapt to life circumstances, depends largely on their personality types. Personality Personality in terms of the personality traits extraversion (extraversion-introversion) and Neuroticism (neuroticism-emotionally stability) has repeatedly been identified as strongly related to life satisfaction (Costa & McCrae, 1980; Headey& Wearing, 1989; Hillerås et al. 2001). Eysenck defined personality as “a more or less stable and enduring organization of a person’s character, temperament, intellect, and physique which determines his unique adjustment to the environment” (Eysenck, 1970) and proposed a hierarchical model of personality. Extraversion includes characteristics such as sociability, impulsiveness, activity, liveliness and excitability. Essentially, the extraversion trait reflects to what degree an individual is sociably outgoing. Neuroticism refers to characteristics such as moody, touchy, anxious, and restless. Those higher in extraversion show higher levels of life satisfaction whereas those higher in neuroticism show lower levels of life satisfaction (Costa & McCrae, 1980; Hillerås et al., 2001).
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