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Keywords:

  • successful aging;
  • health behaviors;
  • social support;
  • national survey

Objectives

To develop a multidimensional statistical model that could assess the contribution of, and interrelationships between, measures likely to contribute to an individual's successful aging, defined as aging well across a number of dimensions.

Design

Cross-sectional.

Setting

Data collected from 8,841 Australians aged 16 to 85 during the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Participants

Two thousand two hundred eighty-six survey participants aged 61 to 85.

Measurements

Self-assessed physical and mental health, quality of life, and cognition constitute the outcome factor: successful aging. Attributes measuring past and current mental and physical health, social measures, and health behaviors were considered for inclusion as predictor measures. Results of the final model allowed calculation of individual weighted successful aging scores.

Results

The final model closely fitted responses from participants and men and women separately. Factors measuring mental and physical health and social support contributed significantly and independently to successful aging. Health behaviors, measuring extent of physical exercise and not smoking, contributed to successful aging in addition to their association with physical health. On average, those scoring in the highest decile of the successful aging measure reported having two chronic health conditions, indicating that such conditions do not necessarily preclude high levels of well-being in older individuals.

Conclusion

This model developed from a large sample of older individuals identified factors worth targeting in future social and health policy initiatives for this age group. It also indicates that chronic illness is not necessarily a barrier to successful aging.