Aging and Mental Health

Latent subgroups with distinct patterns of factors associated with self-rated successful aging among 1,510 community-dwelling Americans: potential role of wisdom as an implicit promoter

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Objectives: To investigate whether latent subgroups with distinct patterns of factors associated with self-rated successful aging can be identified in community-dwelling adults, and how such patterns obtained from analysis of quantitative data are associated with lay perspectives on successful aging obtained from qualitative responses. Methods: Cross-sectional data were collected from 1,510 community-dwelling Americans aged 21–99 years. Latent class regression was used to identify subgroups that explained the associations of self-rated successful aging with measures of physical, cognitive, and mental health as well as psychological measures related to resilience and wisdom. Natural language processing was used to extract important themes from qualitative responses to open-ended questions, including the participants’ definitions of successful aging. Results: Two latent subgroups were identified, and their main difference was that the wisdom scale was positively associated with self-rated successful aging in only one subgroup. This subgroup had significantly lower self-rated successful aging and worse scores for all health and psychological measures. In the subgroup’s qualitative responses, the theme of wisdom was only mentioned by 10.6%; this proportion was not statistically different from the other subgroup, for which the wisdom scale was not statistically associated with the self-rated successful aging. Conclusion: Our results showed heterogeneous patterns in the factors underpinning successful aging even in community-dwelling adults. We found the existence of a latent subgroup with lower self-rated successful aging as well as worse health and psychological scores, and we suggest a potential role of wisdom in promoting successful aging for this subgroup, even though individuals may not explicitly recognize wisdom as important for successful aging.