The Effect of Disability Onset Across the Adult Life Span

Frank Infurna, Maja Wiest

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective To examine whether disability has an age-differential effect on life satisfaction across the adult life span and factors that promote maintenance of life satisfaction. Method We applied multilevel models to 4,372 (M age = 60, SD = 14; 47% women) individuals from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study who experienced disability over the course of the study. Results Disability resulted in substantial and sustained declines in life satisfaction. More important, people who became disabled in young adulthood (aged 18-39 years) and old age (aged 65 and older) reported stronger declines in life satisfaction in the year within disability and were less likely to adapt in the years thereafter. Conversely, those who experienced disability in midlife (aged 40-64 years) were less likely to show declines in the year within disability and were more likely to adapt following disability. Factors associated with maintaining life satisfaction were less severe disability and higher levels of social participation. Discussion Our findings illustrate that disability shapes developmental trajectories of life satisfaction differently depending on its age of onset. Our discussion focuses on possible reasons why disability has differential effects on life satisfaction across the adult life span as well as factors associated with poorer outcomes following disability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)755-766
Number of pages12
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 14 2018


  • Disablement process
  • German Socio-Economic Panel SOEP
  • Life satisfaction
  • Life span perspective
  • Multilevel modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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