Forever young? A comparison of age identities in the United States and Germany

Gerben J. Westerhof*, Anne E. Barrett, Nardi Steverink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


This study compares age identities of middle-aged and older adults in the United States and Germany. Differences between countries in social systems and cultural meanings of old age are expected to produce different age identities. Data are from respondents between ages 40 and 74 in the United States (MIDUS; n = 2,006) and Germany (German Aging Survey; n = 3,331). Americans and Germans tend to feel younger than their actual age, but the discrepancy is larger among Americans. The bias toward youthful identities is stronger at older ages, particularly among Americans. In both counties, persons with better health have younger identities and role losses are not related to age identities. The study shows that different social and cultural systems produce different subjective experiences of aging. As these differences exist within Western culture, the study makes clear that one should be careful in generalizing findings from aging research across countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-383
Number of pages18
JournalResearch on aging
Issue number4
Early online date1 Jul 2003
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Cross-cultural comparison
  • Germany
  • Subjective age
  • United States
  • Age identity


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