The maintenance of psychological and social well-being in the face of the changes and challenges of later life is a fundamental part of healthy ageing. Understanding what influences well-being in older people could show us ways in which individuals can be helped to flourish in later life, and may have further benefits: people who are happier or more actively engaged in social activities and relationships tend to live longer and may experience a slower rate of physical and cognitive decline. How older people feel and how they function socially may be influenced by factors from different stages of life. Here, we report the main findings to date from the HALCyon collaborative programme on life course influences on psychological and social well-being. We began by examining the relative importance of influences from early and later life on anxiety and depression in five cohorts. Greater neuroticism, poorer cognitive or physical function, greater disability, and poorer health were associated in cross-sectional analyses with an increased overall likelihood of anxiety or depression. Associations between lower social class, either in childhood or currently, and increased risk of anxiety or depression were no longer statistically significant after multivariable adjustment. We found no association between birthweight and anxiety or depression. We will report the results of recent analyses in which we explored the longitudinal relations between cognition and depression, and used newly collected data on well-being in six cohorts to examine the importance of common life course influences on how people feel and how they function socially.
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