The uniqueness of subjective ageing: convergent and discriminant validity

  • Svenja M. SpulingEmail author
  • Verena Klusmann
  • Catherine E. Bowen
  • Anna E. Kornadt
  • Eva-Marie Kessler
Original Investigation


Although a large body of research has demonstrated the predictive power of subjective ageing for several decisive developmental outcomes, there remains some controversy about whether subjective ageing truly represents a unique construct. Thus, information about the convergent and discriminant validity of different approaches to measuring subjective ageing is still critically needed. Using data from the 2014 wave of the German Ageing Survey, we examined how three established subjective ageing measures (subjective age, global attitude toward own ageing, multidimensional ageing-related cognitions) were inter-related as well as distinct from general dispositions (optimism, self-efficacy) and well-being (negative affect, depressive symptoms, self-rated health). Using correlational and multivariate regression analysis, we found that the three subjective ageing measures were significantly inter-related (r = |.09| to |.30|), and that each measure was distinct from general dispositions and well-being. The overlap with dispositional and well-being measures was lowest for subjective age and highest for global attitudes towards own ageing. The correlation between global attitudes towards own ageing and optimism was particularly striking. Despite the high convergent validity of the different dimensions of ageing cognitions, we nevertheless observed stronger associations between specific dimensions of ageing cognitions with negative affect and self-rated health. We conclude that researchers should be aware of the multidimensional nature of subjective ageing. Furthermore, subjective age appears to be a highly aggregated construct and future work is needed to clarify its correlates and reference points.


Subjective ageing Subjective age Self-perceptions of ageing Attitude toward own ageing Ageing cognitions Validity 



This work is a result of the research network “Images of Aging: Via a dynamic life span model to new perspectives for research and practice”, funded by a grant of the German Research Foundation (KL 3072/1-1) awarded to Verena Klusmann (University of Konstanz). The German Ageing Survey (DEAS) was funded under Grant 301-6083-05/003*2 by the German Federal Ministry for Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. The content is the sole responsibility of the authors.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Svenja M. Spuling
    • 1
    Email author
  • Verena Klusmann
    • 2
    • 3
  • Catherine E. Bowen
    • 4
  • Anna E. Kornadt
    • 5
  • Eva-Marie Kessler
    • 6
  1. 1.German Centre of Gerontology (DZA)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Psychological Assessment and Health PsychologyUniversity of KonstanzConstanceGermany
  3. 3.Department of Psychology and Human Movement Science, Public HealthUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  4. 4.ViennaAustria
  5. 5.Fakultät für Psychologie und Sportwissenschaft, Differentielle Psychologie und Psychologische DiagnostikBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany
  6. 6.Department of Psychology, GeropsychologyMSB Medical School BerlinBerlinGermany

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