Ageing and Society

Articles

Cross-national insights into the relationship between wealth and wellbeing: a comparison between Australia, the United States of America and South Korea

SARANG KIMa1, KERRY A. SARGENT-COXa1, DAVINA J. FRENCHa1 c1, HAL KENDIGa2 and KAARIN J. ANSTEYa1

a1 Centre for Mental Health Research, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

a2 Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

ABSTRACT

The positive relationship between wealth and wellbeing has received considerable attention over the last three decades. However, little is known about how the significance of wealth for the health and wellbeing of older adults may vary across societies. Furthermore, researchers tend to focus mainly on income rather than other aspects of financial resources even though older adults often rely on fixed income, particularly after retirement. Using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey (N=1,431), the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) in the United States of America (USA; N=4,687), and the Korean Longitudinal Study of Ageing (KLoSA; N=5,447), this exploratory cross-national study examined the relationship between wealth satisfaction and objective wealth and wellbeing (measured as self-rated health and life satisfaction) among older Australians, Americans and Koreans (50+ years). Regression analyses showed that wealth satisfaction was associated with wellbeing over and above monetary wealth in all three countries. The relationship between monetary wealth and self-rated health was larger for the US than Australian and Korean samples, while the additional contribution of wealth satisfaction to life satisfaction was larger for the Korean than the Australian and US samples. These findings are discussed in terms of the cultural and economic differences between these countries, particularly as they affect older persons.

(Accepted January 24 2011)

(Online publication February 24 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Davina French, Centre for Mental Health Research, Australian National University, Canberra, 0200, ACT, Australia. E-mail: Davina.French@anu.edu.au