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Do past stressful life events and personal control beliefs predict subjective wellbeing in old age? Evidence from a Spanish nationwide representative sample


It has been widely corroborated that recent stressful life events could impact wellbeing; nevertheless, it is not clear whether stressful situations experienced in the past and the individual resources used to deal with them influence older adults’ wellbeing. This study aims to analyse the influence of stressful past events and personal control beliefs, or the extent to which people believe they can control or influence their environment in order to achieve desired outcomes, on negative affect and domain-specific life satisfaction in a cross-sectional sample of 1,177 Spanish people age 50 years and older. For this purpose, the measurement of ten stressful past events, perceived control beliefs, negative affect and life satisfaction were obtained. Preliminary analyses showed that domain-specific life satisfaction grouped into two factors: internal and external life satisfaction. The results of the partial least squares structural equation model indicated that stressful events and control beliefs have an impact on both negative affect and life satisfaction in old age. Stressful past events had a negative effect on life satisfaction, while control beliefs were positively associated with negative affect. The model was able to predict the variance of internal life satisfaction at 37.5 per cent.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Laura Rubio, Department of Psychology, University of Jaén, Campus de las Lagunillas, s/n. 23071 Jaén, Spain E-mail:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
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