Christine Stephens co-leads the cross-disciplinary Health and Ageing Research Team in the School of Psychology at Massey University where she is a Professor of Social Science Research. The focus of the team’s activity is a longitudinal study of quality of life in ageing (Health, Work and Retirement study) which has conducted bi-annual surveys of a population sample of older people for 10 years. The research also includes in-depth qualitative studies on topics such as informal caregiving, palliative care, the experience of cancer, and housing needs. Christine’s research is located at the intersection of health psychology and gerontology. She has authored or co-authored papers in these areas for Health Psychology, Psychology and Health, The Journal of Health Psychology, Health and Ageing, Journal of Ageing and Health, Ageing and Society, International Psychogeriatric, Critical Public Health and The Journals of Gerontology. She also has an interest in methodological issues and has contributed to Health Psychology Review and Qualitative Research in Psychology on qualitative approaches to research. She is currently co-authoring a book for Routledge about critical approaches to research on ageing.
A Capabilities Approach to unequal trajectories of healthy ageing: The importance of the environment.
Background and Objectives: Sen’s Capabilities Approach provides a framework that answers many of the critiques of ‘successful ageing’ models and focuses on the environment for the promotion of wellbeing among all older people. Based on this framework we predicted that standard of living, and quality of housing and neighborhoods would be related to physical, mental and social health trajectories.
Methods: We analyzed longitudinal data from 2483 New Zealanders (55-70 years of age in 2006) surveyed biennially for ten years.
Results: Growth mixture modeling revealed five profiles: those with robust health; average good health; declining physical health; limitations in mental health and social wellbeing or vulnerable health. After accounting for the effects of gender, ethnicity, and age, MANOVA revealed that health profile membership was significantly related to standard of living, satisfaction with housing, quality of neighborhood, and social cohesion of neighborhood (in 2016). These environmental resources were significantly inter-correlated.
Discussion and Implications: The findings support our argument that inequalities in health may be more usefully explained by inequalities in capabilities, rather than by individual abilities or choices. Policies to offset such inequalities would focus on social and physical environmental support for individuals’ abilities to meet their valued practical, social and participatory needs. Although these findings support others from recent growth in interest in the environment and health, further research is required to establish the direction of effects and generalization of these relationships.