J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 79:641-645 doi:10.1136/jnnp.2007.126706
  • Research paper

Successful ageing in adversity: the LASER–AD longitudinal study

  1. G Livingston1,
  2. C Cooper1,
  3. J Woods1,
  4. A Milne3,
  5. C Katona2
  1. 1
    Department of Mental Health Sciences, University College London, Archway Campus, Highgate Hill, London, UK
  2. 2
    Kent Institute of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK
  3. 3
    Tizard Centre, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK
  1. Professor G Livingston, Department of Mental Health Sciences, University College London, Holborn Union Building, Archway Campus, Highgate Hill, London N19 5LW, UK; g.livingston{at}
  • Received 7 June 2007
  • Revised 3 August 2007
  • Accepted 5 September 2007
  • Published Online First 26 September 2007


Background: Most models of successful ageing do not allow for the possibility of living “successfully,” despite some degree of cognitive or physical impairment. We reviewed the successful ageing and related quality of life literature to identify their potential predictors. We then tested our hypotheses that wellbeing in adversity would be predicted by mental health (anxiety and depression) and social factors rather than physical health and that it would be stable over time.

Method: We interviewed 224 people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and their family carers, recruited to be representative of those living with AD in the community. We re-interviewed 122 (73.1% of eligible) participants 18 months later. Our main outcome measure was the perception of the person with AD on their life as a whole.

Results: Mean “wellbeing in adversity” scores did not change significantly over time (t = 0.23). Social relationships, subjective mental health, health perception, activities of daily living and baseline wellbeing in adversity were the significant correlates of wellbeing in adversity on univariate analysis. Only baseline wellbeing in adversity and mental health score were significant predictors in our regression analysis. In a well fitting structural equation model, less severe dementia and better health perception predicted fewer mental health problems and social relationships, but were not direct predictors of wellbeing in adversity at 18 months.

Conclusion: Successful ageing was common among a cohort of people with dementia. The most important predictors of this were mental health and social relationships, which fully mediated the relationship we found between health perception and wellbeing 18 months later.


  • Funding: Funding was received from Lundbeck SA.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Ethics approval: The local research ethics committees gave ethics approval for the study.

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