Thieme, Paula, and Dennis A. V. Dittrich
(2015). A Life-Span Perspective on Life Satisfaction.
SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research, No. 775.
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The German population is ageing due to decreasing birth rates and increasing life expectancy. To sustain the German pension system, legal retirement age is increased step by step to 67 years. This raises questions about how to enable and motivate older individuals to work that long. Hence, it is important to understand whether they represent a homogeneous group that can be addressed through specific measures and instruments. Life-span theory points to systematic changes as well as increased heterogeneity with age. For example, work motivation does not generally decline with age but becomes increasingly task-specific, depending on changing life goals and individual adaptation processes in adult development. In this empirical study we analyse age heterogeneity with regard to current life satisfaction and life satisfaction domains (measured as satisfaction with work, income, family and health) that represent personal utilities individuals strive for. For our analysis we use data collected as part of a representative German longitudinal data study (SOEP1). We find increasing heterogeneity in current life satisfaction, satisfaction with work, family life, and health with age. Thus, common mean level analyses on age effects yield only limited informative value. The heterogeneity of older adults should be taken into account when motivating and developing older workers.