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Understanding what is meant by 'the good life' has challenged philosophers and scientists for centuries with contrasting views emphasising either virtue or success. This study applies structural equation modelling (SEM) to the self-evaluations of older people to explore how they perceive 'the good life'. Self-evaluations were used to operationalise the concepts underlying 'the good life' with life satisfaction being used to provide a global evaluation of flourishing (overall life quality), self- esteem being used to assess commitment to virtue and self-efficacy being use to assess commitment to success. A population sample of 632 men and women aged 50 years and older, recruited to participate in an epidemiologic study, were consented and assessed online. Participation included psychological assessment. The analysis presents baseline data for this sample. After adjustment for negative emotions (anxiety and depression) age, self-report health, deprivation and financial status, a path analysis found that life satisfaction was influenced by self-esteem (β=0.27, p<0.001), which was influenced by self-efficacy (β=0.16, p<0.001). Gender, deprivation and cognitive function did not contribute to the final model. These findings may be interpreted at several levels, although inferences on causality must be tentative. In terms of 'the good life', the global evaluation of life by older people is directly influenced by virtue rather than success, with success being important insofar as it contributes to virtue. In short, older people deriving satisfaction from achieving things they consider to be worthwhile: the wisdom of years. © Pier Professional Ltd.

Original publication




Journal article


Quality in Ageing

Publication Date





17 - 25