Subjective Well-Being Across the Retirement Transition—Historical Differences and the Role of Perceived Control

Georg Henning, Dikla Segel-Karpas, Andreas Stenling, Oliver Huxhold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given substantial cohort differences in psychosocial functioning, for example in perceived control, and ongoing pension reforms, the context of retirement has changed over the last decades. However, there islimited research on the consequences of such developments on historical differences in subjective wellbeing(SWB) in the retirement transition. In the present study, we investigated historical differences inchange in life satisfaction and positive affect across the retirement transition. We further included perceivedcontrol as a predictor of change in well-being. Analyses were based on subsamples of retirees among threenationally representative samples of the German Ageing Survey (1996; 2002; 2008) and their respectivefollow-ups 6 years later. Results showed historical improvements in preretirement positive affect (i.e., latersamples had higher preretirement levels). Contrastingly, earlier samples showed a larger increase in positiveaffect across the retirement transition compared to later samples. No historical differences were found in lifesatisfaction. Perceived control showed no historical improvement and did not seem to contribute tohistorical differences in subjective well-being. Nevertheless, we found that the association of perceivedcontrol and positive affect increased over historical time. The results showed that the historical contextseems to play a role in the experience of retirement, and that it is helpful to distinguish between cognitive–evaluative and affective components of well-being

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology and Aging
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The German Ageing Survey was funded under Grant 301-1720-2/2 by the German Federal Ministry for Family, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth.Data from completed waves are available for the scientific community free ofcharge. However, for reasons of data protection, signing a data distributioncontract is required before data can be obtained. Georg Henning was supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation (DeutscheForschungsgemeinschaft; DFG, project number 441444293). AndreasStenling was supported by an international postdoc grant from the SwedishResearch Council (dnr: 2017-00273). A preprint was added to the psyarxivserver:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Psychological Association


  • Control beliefs
  • Historical context
  • Retirement
  • Subjective well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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