The psychological well-being of elderly Jews: A comparative analysis

Allen Glicksman, University of Pennsylvania


The purpose of this research was to examine the relation of cultural (including religious and ethnic) background to the way in which older individuals respond to questions contained in scales designed to measure psychological well-being. We expected cultural background to be an important predictor of these responses because cultural background influences expressive style, and we suspected that expressive style is part of what is being measured by these scales. We decided to focus our study on the American-Jewish elderly, who have a very expressive affective style.^ We selected the Philadelphia Geriatric Center Morale Scale, the Life Satisfaction Index, and the Bradburn Affect Balance Scales to test our hypotheses. For comparison populations, we selected Italian-American Catholics, Irish-American Catholics, and white Presbyterians. These groups were selected because there is a range of expressive styles among these groups.^ The data used were three previously collected data sets: the National Senior Citizens Survey, the Myth and Reality of Aging Survey, and the Need, Cost and Effects of Home Services for the Aged Survey.^ Two formal hypotheses were tested. The first hypothesis stated that the psychological well-being of Jewish elderly as measured by a standard scale of psychological well-being would be significantly lower than that of members of the non-Jewish groups. The second hypothesis stated that even when holding the major determinants of psychological well-being constant, Jewish status would continue to be a significant predictor of scores on these scales. The hypotheses were tested using a variety of multivariate statistical techniques.^ Both hypotheses were confirmed. In addition, the scores of the Jewish respondents were most like the scores of the Italian respondents and least like the scores of the white Presbyterian respondents. We conclude that cultural background does have a significant effect on the patterns of responses of older people to questions designed to measure their psychological well-being. We further concluded that groups noted for expressive styles of behavior have lower average scores on standard scales of psychological well-being than the scores of groups noted for more stoic styles of behavior. ^

Subject Area

Social psychology|Ethnic studies|Quantitative psychology

Recommended Citation

Glicksman, Allen, "The psychological well-being of elderly Jews: A comparative analysis" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9101161.