Cross-national insights into the relationship between wealth and wellbeing: a comparison between Australia, the United States of America and South Korea

Ageing and Society (Impact Factor: 1.16). 12/2011; 32(01):41 - 59. DOI: 10.1017/S0144686X11000080

ABSTRACT The positive relationship between wealth and wellbeing has received considerable attention over the last three decades. However, little is known about how the significance of wealth for the health and wellbeing of older adults may vary across societies. Furthermore, researchers tend to focus mainly on income rather than other aspects of financial resources even though older adults often rely on fixed income, particularly after retirement. Using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey (N=1,431), the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) in the United States of America (USA; N=4,687), and the Korean Longitudinal Study of Ageing (KLoSA; N=5,447), this exploratory cross-national study examined the relationship between wealth satisfaction and objective wealth and wellbeing (measured as self-rated health and life satisfaction) among older Australians, Americans and Koreans (50+ years). Regression analyses showed that wealth satisfaction was associated with wellbeing over and above monetary wealth in all three countries. The relationship between monetary wealth and self-rated health was larger for the US than Australian and Korean samples, while the additional contribution of wealth satisfaction to life satisfaction was larger for the Korean than the Australian and US samples. These findings are discussed in terms of the cultural and economic differences between these countries, particularly as they affect older persons.

1 Bookmark
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This paper undertakes to explore the gerontological and social science literature for the purpose of highlighting that while ageing is a common phenomenon across all world societies it nevertheless remains a unique personal experience. Drawing upon the metaphorical construct of the life journey, the authors use the cultural context of ageing to illustrate how the life-path for each individual, whether long or short, is necessarily unpredictable and involves a dynamic interaction between history and biography within a particular society and cultural framework. The authors challenge prospective readers to use their sociological imagination as proffered by the renowned sociologist C.W. Mills in the interest of moving beyond the biological dimension in order to see more clearly that ‘ageing into old age’ is in essence a unique personal life story. The life story of each individual is seen to represent a compilation of ongoing levels of compliance and /or tension between the individual’s subjective world and external forces the consequence of the individual being a thinking, willing and feeling person, an existential entity with potential for meaning making, self organization and adaptive responses to changing life circumstances. Notwithstanding the diverse cultural, racial and ethnic differences between people worldwide the ageing experience is shown to be a phenomenon displaying cross-cultural variability warranting further ongoing anthropological research. An examination of the many pathways to ageing utilizing a series of interactive factors helps to explain the existence of advantages and disadvantages leading to variations in availability and access to ‘life chances’ resulting in many people experiencing unacceptable levels of ill-health, poverty, racism, ageism, inequality and widespread levels of social injustice and abuse of human rights.
    Journal of Population Ageing 5(4).


Available from
May 19, 2014