Are Older Adults Perceived as A Threat to Society? Exploring Perceived Age-Based Threats in 29 Nations

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Objectives: The present study adds to the current body of literature by simultaneously examining the public perception of young and old people as posing realistic threats (e.g., to the group's power, resources, and welfare) and symbolic threats (e.g., to one's world view, belief system and values). Methods: The fourth wave of the European Social Survey was administered to individuals from 29 countries. Analysis is based on 56,170 individuals, who had data on the four relevant indicators. The study relied on a latent profile analysis to develop a typology of perceived realistic and symbolic threats to society by younger and older adults. Results: A three-profile solution indicated that the perception of older and younger adults as threats to society often co-occurs. Sociodemographic characteristics at the individual-level and the Gini coefficient (e.g., an inequality indicator) at the country-level had differential associations with the profiles identified. Conclusions: The study calls for a more balanced approach which evaluates attitudes toward both younger and older adults as potential sources of threat. Attention should be paid to individual- and national-level characteristics associated with age-based threats (e.g., the perception of a group, defined by its chronological age, as threatening).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1256-1265
Number of pages10
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

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© 2019 The Author(s).


  • Age discrimination
  • Ageism
  • Cluster
  • Epidemiology
  • Group identity
  • Intergenerational conflict
  • Threat


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