“Better be dead than grow older:” A qualitative study on subjective aging among older Koreans

Eun Young Choi, Sung Hyun Ko, Yuri Jang

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6 Scopus citations


While a large body of evidence suggests potential cultural variations in the experiences of subjective aging, very little is known about how members of Asian cultures feel about their aging. This study aims to acquire an in-depth understanding of subjective aging and its cultural/societal contexts among older Korean adults. In-depth face-to-face interviews were conducted with 20 community-dwelling Korean adults over age 65. Guided by the Stereotype Embodiment Theory, open-ended questions were asked to address how exposure to cultural/societal views about older adults relate to individuals' subjective aging. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method. Seven categories were identified, which were grouped into three primary themes: 1) exposure to negative views on aging/older persons; 2) salience gain from self-relevance; and 3) influence on older adults' subjective aging. Most participants were generally not satisfied with their aging, felt they were a burden, and were prone to experience intergenerational conflicts. This may be attributed in part to their exposure to widespread negative age stereotypes and disrespect for older adults. Awareness of age-related changes and experience of age discrimination appear to be triggers through which the negative cultural/societal views on aging/older persons influence one's subjective perceptions and experience of aging. This in-depth data from an understudied population contributes to the existing literature by suggesting that the dominant-negative experience of aging among older Koreans may be better understood from socio-cultural contexts. Our findings can inform culture-specific intervention strategies to promote positive subjective aging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100974
JournalJournal of Aging Studies
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Southern California Korean Studies Institute Summer Fieldwork Grant awarded to Eun Young Choi.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • Asian culture
  • Older Koreans
  • Stereotype embodiment theory
  • Subjective aging


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