Seniors report higher life satisfaction than other age groups: StatsCan

The so-called “golden years” are living up to the billing, according to a new study that found the majority of Canadian seniors are more satisfied with their lives than other age groups.

Using data collected from the 2016 General Social Survey, Statistics Canada found that Canadians aged 65 and older reported an overall higher life satisfaction than their younger counterparts. On a scale from one to 10, the average score was 8.2 or “very satisfied” among senior respondents.

For men, those aged 40 to 49 reported being the least satisfied with their lives while women aged 50 to 59 had the lowest life satisfaction in the study.

The study also noted that senior women were more satisfied than men in their age groups.

Dr. Samir Sinha, the director of geriatrics at Sinai Health System and Toronto’s University Health System, said there are likely many different reasons why those women are more satisfied, but he largely credits their relationships.

“Older women just tend to maybe be better connected, be better supported, and therefore, a bit more satisfied with their life and their accomplishments,” he told CTV News Channel on Thursday.

The survey asked Canadians to answer a variety of questions on topics ranging from their health, perceived social class, marital status, religious beliefs, stress and family. Positive relationships and feeling connected to the community appeared to be major factors for a higher life satisfaction, according to the study.

“It basically said that eight out of 10 people say that, in their later years, that they have someone they can call upon if they need their help,” Sinha said. “But it reminds us that two out of 10 Canadians say that they don’t actually have someone that they can call upon.”

Sinha said the study demonstrates why it’s important for Canadians to make an effort to meet new people and make new friends throughout their lives.

“There’s a significant chunk of us who will be living more isolated lives and that can sometimes lead to loneliness,” he said.

Economic well-being

Unlike younger age groups, the life satisfaction of men and women who were in their sixties, seventies, and eighties didn’t appear to be affected by their family income.

However, subjective factors related to economic well-being, such as how financially stressed they said they were or their perception of what social class they were in, contributed to their overall score.

For example, the study noted that older Canadians who believed they were part of the “lower class” had lower overall life satisfaction than those who said they were in the “middle class” or “upper class.”

Health

Although seniors reported being more satisfied with their personal relationships, safety, and the quality of their local environment than other respondents, they were less content with their health.

Unsurprisingly, Canadians who said they were in “poor health” had lower overall life satisfaction, the study said. Seniors, on average, rated their satisfaction with their health as 7.2 out of 10.

Sinha said the study highlights how important it is for Canadians to be proactive and take preventative measures, such as not smoking, eating well, and exercising, to ensure they’re healthy in their later years.

Resilience

The 2016 General Social Survey also asked Canadians to rate their own resilience by asking them how confident they felt in their abilities when faced with challenges and how optimistic they were about the future.

Statistics Canada said that more than three quarters of seniors claimed they were “always” or “often” confident in their abilities and that 70 per cent said they “always” or “often” had enough energy to meet life’s challenges and were hopeful for the future.

Those respondents who said they were more resilient also appeared to have a higher life satisfaction than those who answered otherwise.

Sinha said he finds the results of the study refreshing, particularly for younger Canadians.

“We shouldn’t be thinking so negatively about growing old. There’s a lot to look forward to,” he said. “We shouldn’t feel bad for ourselves as we get older. Sometimes it’s a hard slog when we’re younger, but those golden years are a bit golden.”