A Study of Multidimensional Wellbeing Inequalities over the Life Course

Laura Bernardi, Université de Lausanne
Chiara Ludovica Comolli, University of Lausanne
Marieke Voorspostel, University of Lausanne

The relationship between age and subjective and objective wellbeing has been subject to investigation by numerous studies in the fields of economics, psychology, sociology and gerontology. The literature provides a number of theoretical explanations and empirical tests of how wellbeing develops with age. Existing studies differ dramatically in terms of methodology, the data used and the wellbeing measure they analyse, therefore reporting mixed findings. While most studies show a U-shaped form of subjective wellbeing with increasing age, others report instead either an inverted U-shaped, a linear or even a non-existent relationship. In this paper, we use long term longitudinal data, 18 waves of the Swiss Household Panel (1999-2017), to study the relationship between age and multidimensional subjective and objective wellbeing, both between and within individuals. Fixed-effect models allow us to disentangle age effects from time-invariant individual characteristics that influence the shape of wellbeing over the life course. Using both domain-specific indicators of subjective wellbeing and general life satisfaction allows us to understand whether well-being trajectories diverge across domains. Finally, we investigate the different role of ageing across gender and educational groups. Preliminary results indicate that fixed effect models predict a sensibly different life course trajectory of wellbeing compared to cross-sectional estimates. While the latter in fact shows, as the vast majority of similar studies, a U-shaped development of wellbeing with age, looking within individuals over time, general subjective wellbeing declines with age.

Presented in Session 2: Economic and Emotional Well-being across the Life Course