Linking concurrent self-reports and retrospective proxy reports about the last year of life: A prevailing picture of life satisfaction decline

Frank J. Infurna, Denis Gerstorf, Nilam Ram, Jürgen Schupp, Mirjam A.G. Sprangers, Gert G. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Objective. We examined the extent to which retrospective proxy reports of well-being mirror participant self-reports at 12-24 months before death and how proxy reports of well-being change over the last year of life. We also explored the role of sociodemographic, cognitive, and health factors of both participants and proxies in moderating such associations. Method. We used retrospective proxy ratings obtained in the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (N = 164; age at death = 19-99 years). Results. Results revealed moderate agreement between self- and proxy reports (r = .42), but proxies, on average, overestimated participants' life satisfaction by two thirds of a scale point on a 0-10 scale (or 0.4 SD). Discrepancies were particularly pronounced when proxies themselves reported low life satisfaction. Over the last year of life, participants were viewed to have experienced declines in life satisfaction (-0.54 SD). Declines were stronger for ill participants and proxies who reported low life satisfaction. Discussion. Results qualify theoretical expectations and empirical results based on self-report data that are typically available 1 or 2 years before death. We discuss that retrospective proxy reports in panel surveys can be used as a hypothesis- generating tool to gather insights into late life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-709
Number of pages15
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2014



  • Exit interviews
  • German Socio-Economic Panel Study
  • Late-life satisfaction
  • Proxy reports
  • SOEP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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