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Health assets in older age: a systematic review

17 May 2017


Finding ways to optimise health in older age is key to reducing the impact of population ageing on health and social care systems. A salutogenic approach takes into account an individual’s health assets—internal or external strengths or accessible resources which improve and preserve physical, social and mental wellness, independence and quality of life. The aim of this narrative systematic review was to provide a summary and appraisal of the evidence for factors that act as health assets within personal, social, economic and environmental domains.


Systematic searches of databases were conducted for literature published in peer-reviewed journals between January 2000 and November 2016. Selection criteria included community dwelling populations aged 65 years and over and publications written in English. Data on study population, design, measures of health status, factors within the four previously stated domains and results were extracted. Study quality was independently assessed using an appraisal instrument.


Twenty-three publications, including 78 422 participants, from more than 13 different countries were identified for inclusion in this review. There was strong evidence that higher scores of self-rated health, psychological well-being and life satisfaction were associated with better health in older age. Social network and contact with family and friends, and engagement in leisure and social activities were important support mechanisms. Education and financial resources consistently proved to be key economic health assets for older adults.


Implementing an asset-based approach to health promotion uncovers the skills, knowledge, connections and potential of the individual and the community. This approach is an ideal opportunity for government health bodies and their partners to respond to the challenges faced by global ageing.

Factors are often interdependent and cumulative, suggesting the potential for an instrument to measure the accumulated effect of health assets on health status in older adults.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open