: This study examines if education, income, and loneliness are associated with physical functioning and optimism in an ageing population in Germany. Furthermore, time trends of physical functioning and optimism as well as of associations with social inequality and loneliness are analyzed. Methods
: The German Ageing Survey (DEAS), a longitudinal population-based survey of individuals aged 40 years and older, was used (four waves between 2008 and 2017, total sample size N
= 23,572). Physical functioning and optimism were introduced as indicators of ageing well. Educational level, net equivalent income, and loneliness were used as predictors in linear mixed models for longitudinal data. Results
: Time trends show that physical functioning decreases over time, while optimism slightly increases. Education and income are positively associated with physical functioning, while higher loneliness correlates with lower physical functioning. Higher optimism was associated with higher income and particularly with lower loneliness. Income and notable educational inequalities in physical functioning increase over time. Time trends of the associations with optimism show decreasing income inequalities and increasing disparities in loneliness. Conclusions
: Increasing educational inequalities in physical functioning and a strong association of loneliness with optimism provide information for further interventions. Targeted health promotion among the aged and addressing maladaptive social cognition are options to tackle these issues. Key areas for action on healthy ageing include, for instance, the alignment of health systems to the needs of older populations or the creation of age-friendly environments.
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