Ageing and Society

Quality of life perceptions and social comparisons in healthy old age

a1 School of Psychology and Therapeutic Studies, University of Surrey, Roehampton, and Department of Clinical Psychology, Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, Putney, London.

Article author query
graham beaumont j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
kenealy pm   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


This paper reports a study of the influence of healthy older people's type of residence and social comparison strategies on their quality of life perceptions. Data were collected from 190 participants aged 65 or more years resident in one London Borough. Participants were classified by their type of residence, and their quality of life was assessed by the Schedule for Evaluation of Individual Quality of Life: Direct Weighting (SEIQoL-DW). Among the reported social comparison judgements, the dominant strategy was ‘Downward Contrast’. It was the sole strategy for 78 per cent of those studied, and was significantly associated with a higher perceived quality of life. Among other statistically significant findings, it was found that positive orientation, optimistic orientation, and the use of Contrast rather than Identification comparisons associated with a better reported quality of life. The over-riding influence of Downward Contrast comparisons was also confirmed: this strategy appears to be adaptive and functional in enhancing perceived quality of life. The effect is not mediated by depression, although differences in comparison strategy were observed among groups with different residential status. The possibility of an intervention to enhance the perceived quality of life is discussed.

(Accepted April 6 2004)

Key Words: quality of life; older adults; residence; social comparisons.

c1 J. Graham Beaumont, Department of Clinical Psychology, Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, West Hill, Putney, London SW15 3SW. e-mail: