Ageing and psychosocial adjustment
Psychosocial adjustment (as in psychological subjective well-being) and social adjustment (as in for example labour market adjustment and criminal behaviour) have significant impact on human lives. There is a great need to explore further how psychosocial adjustment develops with age and not the least what kind of factors and interactions of factors that are associated with positive and negative psychosocial adjustment. This research field needs to take into account the possible influence of individual factors (e.g. genetic, biological, psychological, and cognitive factors as well factors such as values and attitudes in terms of ageing and working or not working late in life) as well as factors in the social and physical environment (e.g. social relations and interactions and living conditions).
Thus, interdisciplinary research (both quantitative and qualitative) and intersectoral activities are essential.
Ageing is a period in life with great changes including seeing the end of a long working life, seeing friends and relatives fall sick and pass away, and starting to more closely see the end of one's own life. After having lived a life during at least 60 years, the person now has what can be seen as an objective and subjective history. The objective one has to do with the facts of the person´s life history such as: What level and type of education did he/she acquired in life? Income and private economy? What kind of work and positions? Retirement or plans thereof? Intimate partners, marriage, and children? Friends and social network? Mental health/history of psychiatric problems? Physical health/history of medical problems, physical activity, and food habits? The subjective history on the other hand has to do with subjective opinions about work and retirement satisfaction, opinion and satisfaction about his/her economy, as well as satisfaction in intimate relationships, relationship to children, and the relationships to friends and relatives, subjective well-being, as well the utilization of modern techniques such as social media, etc. It also has to do with the coping and subjective opinions about one's own mental health history and current state as well as that of health problems. The overall purpose of the present research theme is to better understand which of these objective and subjective factors are the most important denominators of positive and negative psychosocial adjustment (i.e., mental health, social adjustment in terms of work, economy, but also subjective well-being/subjectively rated quality of life) in ageing individuals, as well as to better understand which interactions/combinations of these factors are linked to positive and negative psychosocial adjustment.
Understanding positive and negative well-being in ageing individuals through interdisciplinary life-span perspectives
There is a great need to better understand how psychosocial adjustment develops with age and not the least what kind of factors and interactions of factors that are associated with positive and negative psychosocial adjustment. The increasing ageing population is one of Sweden´s and the world's big challenges for the 21st century. How to cope with populations that are living ever longer has already been studied in many studies in many different countries. However, existing studies have mostly been monodisciplinary and focused on single domains of ageing at a time, omitting the understanding of how various domains in life can interact. Furthermore, very few existing studies have studied ageing in a life-span perspective, i.e., lacking the understanding how objective and subjective factors through life can impact the experiences of ageing. There is also still a lack of studies on gender similarities and differences in ageing.
To fully understand how and why elderly people adapt as they do to the ageing process, we need to study this in a life-span perspective because the history and experiences of the person will likely have impact on his/her current and future well-being. Therefore, available within this research theme is planned to be a prospective longitudinal cohort of approximately 1000 individuals born in 1955 who have been followed since childhood (see; www.oru.se/theidaprogram).
Previous research has shown that several life domains with their more specific factors, objective and subjective ones, may be important for understanding psychosocial adjustment in older adult age. These domains have been labeled in different ways in the literature but can be categorized as follows; Vocational, educational development, and economy; Physical health; Mental health and functioning; Social adjustment; Personality and psychobiology, and; Opportunities for well-being.
Örebro University and the NEWBREED doctoral programme offer a dynamic and lucrative context for innovative and interdisciplinary research on ageing and psychosocial adjustment. The already existing "Successful ageing" doctoral programme hosts a number of PhD students focusing on psychosocial aspects of ageing and create connections between the research topic of ageing and a number of strong research groups at Örebro University. At the research center CAPS – Center for Criminological and Psychosocial Research, as well as in other research groups and departments collaborating with researchers at CAPS, research is conducted on psychosocial adjustment from multiple perspectives. Furthermore, the connection between "Ageing and psychosocial adjustment" and the additional three themes of the Newbreed doctoral programme offers great opportunities for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and collaboration with researchers within medicine, behavioural sciences, computer science, etc.
In summary, the overall purpose of the present research theme is to better understand which objective and subjective factors of people's lives, alone or in its interaction, are most important for understanding positive and negative psychosocial adjustment in ageing individuals. In summary, this research theme examines ageing processes with potential research areas including, but not limited to:
- Vocational, educational development, and economy in a life-span perspective and its importance for psychosocial adjustment in ageing individuals.
- Physical health in a life-span perspective and its importance for psychosocial adjustment in ageing individuals.
- Mental health and functioning in a life-span perspective and its importance for psychosocial adjustment in ageing individuals.
- Social adjustment, violence, criminality, in a life-span perspective and its importance for psychosocial adjustment in ageing individuals.
- Personality and psychobiology in a life-span perspective and its importance for psychosocial adjustment in ageing individuals.
- Opportunities for well-being such as life choices and turning points in a life-span perspective and its importance for psychosocial adjustment in ageing individuals.
- Gender differences and similarities in terms of the most important factors for understanding psychosocial adjustment in ageing individuals in a life-span perspective.
Training in and experiences of interdisciplinary research as well as prospective longitudinal research including research methods utilized in longitudinal research will be very valuable within this theme. Both quantitative and qualitative methods may be utilized within the theme depending on the specific research questions posed.