Ongoing Cumulative Chronic Stressors as Predictors of Well-Being in the Second Half of Life

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The main aim of the present study was to examine the relationship between ongoing cumulative chronic stressors (OCCS) and well-being during the second half of life. The sample comprised 7,268 participants who had completed the Health and Retirement Study 2006 psychosocial questionnaire and the full OCCS questionnaire. OCCS were evaluated as a predictor of Subjective Well-Being and Psychological Well-Being (PWB) using two measures: the number of events and the subjective evaluation attributed to the events by the participant. Additionally, the association between OCCS and well-being was evaluated in midlife (50-64), young-old (65-79), and old-old (80-104) participants. The results showed that the participant's age as well as the number of OCCS perceived as "very upsetting" were strong predictors of well-being. The relationship between OCCS and PWB was weaker among old-old participants than among midlife and young-old participants. Although well-being is considered a stable trait-like personality dimension in the second half of life, the study's findings suggest that as the number of OCCS was higher, and especially as the subjective evaluations attributed to an event are more upsetting, well-being was lower. Nevertheless, this lower level of well-being is partially moderated in the PWB measures by age. Old-old participants maintain a higher general positive sense of PWB than midlife and young-old participants in what was previously termed the "well-being paradox." Implications of the results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1127-1144
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The current study used data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). HRS is a nationally representative sample of individuals 50 years and older residing in the United States ( The HRS is sponsored by the National Institute of Aging and is conducted by the University of Michigan. The study is reviewed and approved by the University of Michigan’s Health Sciences IRB. Participants take part in a biennial interview that covers a range of topics, among which are income, wealth, work, retirement, health, and health care utilization.

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments The Health and Retirement Study is funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA U01AG009740) awarded to the University of Michigan. I thank Amit Shrira and Menachem Ben-Ezra for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.


  • Chronic stressors
  • Cumulative stress
  • Psychological well-being
  • Subjective well-being
  • Well-being paradox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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