Do negative life events promote gerotranscendence in the second half of life?

S. Read, A. W. Braam, T.M. Lyyra, D.J.H. Deeg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVES: Gerotranscendence has been defined as a developmental shift in meta-perspective from a materialistic and pragmatic view to a more cosmic and transcendent view. Although gerotranscendence has been argued to increase with age and life experiences, the results have been mixed and based on cross-sectional studies. We use a longitudinal setting to investigate the role of negative life events, age, and gender on change in one dimension of gerotranscendence, cosmic transcendence. METHOD: 1569 individuals (ages 58-89) answered a questionnaire on cosmic transcendence in two cycles of the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam in 1995-1996 (time 1) and 1998-1999 (time 2). Controlling for education, marital status, religious affiliation, chronic diseases, functional limitations, depressive symptoms, and social support, change models based on structural equation modeling were fitted to the data to test whether negative life events, age, and gender were associated with change in cosmic transcendence. RESULTS: A higher number of negative life events, especially negative life events other than deaths of others, were associated with increased cosmic transcendence, whereas experiencing no negative life events was associated with decreased cosmic transcendence. The level of cosmic dimension was higher at older than younger ages. Cosmic transcendence decreased over time among the older participants and women, whereas it increased among the younger participants and men. CONCLUSION: Experiencing negative life events has the potential to promote the development of cosmic transcendence, even when controlling for age and gender. In the absence of negative life events, however, cosmic transcendence was observed to decline with aging.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)117-124
Number of pages8
JournalAging & Mental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

Cite this