Perceptions of determinants of successful aging among older U.S. veterans: Results from the national health and resilience in veterans study

Julia Rozanova, Paraskevi Noulas, Steven M. Southwick, Robert H. Pietrzak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objective: To conduct a qualitative study of older American veterans' subjective perceptions of factors that contribute to successful physical, emotional, and cognitive aging. Methods: A nationally representative sample of 2,025 veterans aged 60 or older (range: 60-96; 96.9% male, 39.4% combat veterans) participated in the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study. Using qualitative analysis software, the authors coded responses to three open-ended questions, inductively developed categories, aggregated similar categories into factors, and grouped factors into broader themes. Results: A total of 53, 56, and 61 categories of responses was identified in response to questions about successful physical, cognitive, and emotional aging, respectively, with 10 aggregate factors linking these categories. The most prominent theme overall was "What you do," which received 2,295, 2,210, and 1,247 mentions for each of these domains of successful aging, with health behaviors the most common factor for both successful physical and cognitive aging and social engagement the most common for successful emotional aging. The theme "Who you are" was the second-most common factor (discerned from 376, 247, and 943 total mentions, respectively), with the factors that comprise this theme-personality and explanatory style, moral compass, and emotional dispositions-more commonly endorsed for successful emotional aging. External factors such as healthcare were least commonly endorsed across all domains. Conclusion: Older U.S. Veterans emphasize health behaviors, social engagement, and dispositional characteristics as key determinants of successful aging. Prevention and treatment initiatives that target these potentially modifiable factors may help promote successful aging in this growing segment of the population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)744-753
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Inductive thematic analysis
  • Older U.S. veterans
  • Successful aging


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