A cohort analysis of subjective wellbeing and ageing: heading towards a midlife crisis?

Steffen Otterbach, Alfonso Sousa-Poza, Valerie Møller


Using eight waves from the German Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics (pairfam), we analyse how different domains of subjective wellbeing evolve within seven years (2008–2015) in three different cohorts born 10 years apart (1971/73, 1981/83, and 1991/93). This study contributes to the ongoing debate about subjective wellbeing following a U-shaped pattern over the life course. In four domains our results show the first half of such a U-shaped pattern: on average, general life satisfaction – as well as satisfaction with leisure time, social contacts and friends, and family – declines substantially between the ages of 15 and 44, with the most significant decrease taking place at a young age (early 20s). Nevertheless, trajectories among the three cohorts differ markedly, indicating that, ceteris paribus, responses on subjective wellbeing differ greatly between cohorts born just a decade apart. The results further indicate that the two older cohorts assess family life and social contacts more favourably than the youngest cohort.


Subjective Wellbeing Domains, Life Satisfaction, Ageing, Longitudinal Data, pairfam Survey, Germany

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14301/llcs.v9i4.509

Copyright (c) 2018 Steffen Otterbach, Alfonso Sousa-Poza, Valerie Møller

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