Greater Personal Wealth Makes Being Old Seem More Tolerable

Until you get to the point of retirement or incapacity, being older tends to mean being wealthier and more influential in your community: you are earning, saving, and interacting with people, and that adds up over the years. In the first stages of aging, when all you have suffered are comparatively minor pains, dysfunctions, and losses, being financially secure and well-connected in comparison to earlier years is a significant compensation. If you ask people in their 40s whether they would trade their present security, influence, and network for the flush (and lack of resources) of youth, then you might see some careful weighing of options.

Life is a progression from a place of time, health, and no resources to a place of resources but neither health nor time, and these line items are valued accordingly at each stopping point along the way. So we see people spending vast sums on medical technology in the last stages of life, not just because it is enormously costly to try to compensate for or patch over the end of aging with the techniques available today, but more importantly because these people consider such an expense worth it. What were unthinkable sums for the poorer, younger version of an individual are spent on obtaining a little more time or small gains in freedom from pain and disability. The future of rejuvenation biotechnology will liberate us from these cruel calculations, and that goal is precisely why it is important.

How people perceive their own well-being depends in part on wealth: up to a level of diminishing returns the more you have the better you feel about life. So the natural progression of increasing wealth with age is probably one (perhaps minor) contributing cause of a level of disinterest in work on lengthening healthy life and creating rejuvenation. People are moved to action by dissatisfaction and discomfort to a greater degree than by ideals, I think. If you are more or less comfortable where you are, and none your neighbors are one-upping you with those newfangled rejuvenation therapies, then why make the effort?

Researchers here are putting some numbers to the relationship between wealth, health, and how people feel about being old. Their results suggest much as above, that wealth - and all that comes with it - is compensatory, but only up to a point. Which is something to think about while you are in your 30s and 40s and on top of the world.

Frailty, financial resources and subjective well-being in later life

Though frailty status has recently been linked to poorer quality of life, the impact of income on this relationship has not previously been investigated. Data from a population-based panel study, the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, on 3225 participants aged 65-79 years were analyzed cross-sectionally.

A Frailty Index (FI) was determined for each participant as a proportion of accumulated deficits and participants were categorized into four groups on the basis of their FI score: very fit (0.00-0.10), well (0.11-0.14), vulnerable (0.15-0.24), and frail (≥0.25). Subjective well-being was assessed using the CASP-19 instrument, and levels of financial resources quantified using a range of questions about assets and income from a range of sources.

Linear regression models were used to assess the relationship between frailty and well-being. There was a significant negative correlation between frailty and well-being; the correlation coefficient between FI and CASP-19 scores was -0.58. The relationship was robust to adjustment for sex, age, and relevant health behaviors (smoking and physical activity) and persisted when participants with depressive symptoms were excluded from analysis.

Those with greater financial resources reported better subjective well-being with evidence of a "dose-response" effect. The poorest participants in each frailty category had similar well-being to the most well-off with worse frailty status. Hence, while the association between frailty and poorer subjective well-being is not significantly impacted by higher levels of wealth and income, financial resources may provide a partial buffer against the detrimental psychological effects of frailty.

Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.