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The economic recession and subjective well-being in older adults in the Republic of Ireland

  • R. M. Duffy (a1), K. Mullin (a2), S. O’Dwyer (a1), M. Wrigley (a3) and B. D. Kelly (a4)...

Subjective well-being in older people is strongly associated with emotional, physical and mental health. This study investigates subjective well-being in older adults in Ireland before and after the economic recession that commenced in 2008.


Cross-sectional data from the biennial European Social Survey (2002–2012) were analysed for two separate groups of older adults: one sampled before the recession and one after. Stratification and linear regression modelling were used to analyse the association between subjective well-being, the recession and multiple potential confounders and effect modifiers.


Data were analysed on 2013 individuals. Overall, subjective well-being among older adults was 1.30 points lower after the recession compared with before the recession (s.e. 0.16; 95% confidence interval 1.00–1.61; p<0.001) [pre-recession: 16.1, out of a possible 20 (s.d. 3.24); post-recession:14.8 (s.d. 3.72)]. Among these older adults, the pre- and post-recession difference was especially marked in women, those with poor health and those living in urban areas.


Subjective well-being was significantly lower in older adults after the recession compared with before the recession, especially in women with poor health in urban areas. Policy-makers need proactively to protect these vulnerable cohorts in future health and social policy. Future research could usefully focus on older people on fixed incomes whose diminished ability to alter their economic situation might make them more vulnerable to reduced subjective well-being during a recession.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: B. D. Kelly, Department of Psychiatry, Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Tallaght Hospital, Dublin 24, Ireland. (Email:
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Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0790-9667
  • EISSN: 2051-6967
  • URL: /core/journals/irish-journal-of-psychological-medicine
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