It is important to understand the determinants of differences in quality of life in old age and to include a wide range of possible predictors. The present study investigated the determinants of quality of life in two groups of older adults for whom there was an unusually informative set of possible predictor variables.
Participants were members of the Lothian Birth Cohorts of 1921 (n = 550) or 1936 (n = 1,091). Four facets of quality of life (QoL) and general QoL were measured using the WHOQOL-BREF. Possible determinants included personality traits, measured with the International Personality Item Pool (IPIP) scales; childhood and old age general cognitive ability, measured with the Moray House Test; minor psychological symptoms, measured with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS); physical health, assessed by grip strength and cardiovascular disease history; and sociodemographic factors, assessed by interview.
Linear regression analyses revealed that HADS depression had the greatest influence on quality of life. Personality traits, most notably Emotional Stability, also predicted quality of life to varying degrees, along with factors reflecting current life circumstances. There were differences between the two cohorts in the variables which predicted quality of life. There were different, conceptually relevant, contributions to the different QoL facets.
Personality traits and minor depressive symptoms have an important influence on self-reported quality of life in old age. Quality of life may be influenced more by current than past circumstances, and this relationship may change with age.