A new study published in SSM- Mental Health found that benefits from life satisfaction may be outweighed by negative socioeconomic, health, and psychological factors.
Positive psychology suggests that higher life satisfaction generally improves cognitive functioning. The degree to which this occurs on an individual level, however, remains relatively unexplored. To address this gap in the literature, the researchers behind the current study examined the link between life satisfaction and cognitive functioning.
For the study, the researchers used a machine learning approach to analyze healthcare data from adults aged 50 and over. Altogether, 10, 650 individuals were based in the US, and 5,514 in the UK. Life satisfaction was assessed using a questionnaire, while cognitive function was assessed via a telephone interview-based cognitive test.
Ultimately, they found that only half of the adults benefited cognitively from high life satisfaction. In particular, they noted that high life satisfaction did not improve cognition among adults with lower socioeconomic status, more pre-existing health conditions, and worse psychological functioning.
To explain the findings, the researchers noted that the benefits of higher life satisfaction may be outweighed by the physical, mental, or socioeconomic challenges experienced by individuals with low socioeconomic status. They noted that ‘response shift’ may also explain the results.
“Response shift is the adjustment of one’s internal view of their quality of life when facing challenging circumstances in which their health status is severely deteriorated,” said lead author of the study, Toshiaki Komura, a master of public health student at Boston University School of Public Health in a press release. “In such situations, their standard of quality of life may shift to maintain a favorable psychological environment.”
“Our findings suggest such adjusted subjective feelings might have limited health-promoting effects on cognitive functioning,” he added.
In the paper, the researchers concluded that further studies are needed to learn more about the link between life satisfaction and cognitive function, especially as the link may have some 'unintended adverse consequences among some subgroups'.