LASA filenames:
LASA038 / LASA238

Contact: Arjan Braam


Tornstam (1994) defined gerotranscendence as a transition from a materialistic and rationalistic perspecti­ve to a more cos­mic and trans­cendent view of life accompanying the pro­cess of aging. This transition implies a redefinition of time, place, life and death, and a redefinition of the self, and a need for solitary ‘meditation’ may be experienced. According to Tornstam, the development towards gerotranscendence takes place on three levels. The first is the cos­mic level, concer­ning the experience of an increased feeling of unity with the universe, a redefinition of the per­ception of time, space, life, and death, and an increa­sed feeling of affinity with past and future generations. The second level con­cerns a redefini­tion of the self, which is apparent from a decrea­se in self-centered­ness and a decline in ma­teri­al interest. The third, social level, implies a decli­ne in interest in superfluous social con­tacts, and an increase in time spent in meditation.

Previous studies, so far, provide sufficient empirical consistence for the assessment of the cosmic level of gerotranscendence only (Tornstam, 1994; Braam et al., 1997, Tornstam 1997; Braam et al., 2006; Hoshino et al., 2012). The internal validity of the available cosmic transcendence scales is acceptable.


The following six items on the cosmic transcendence scale were taken from the Dutch version of Tornstam’s first version of the gerotranscendence scale (1994: “GT1”):

(1) “Today I feel that the border between life and death is less striking compared to when I was 45 years of age”;

(2) “Today I feel to a higher degree, how unimportant an individual life is, in comparison to the continuing life as such”;

(3) “Today I feel a greater mutual connection with the universe, compared to when I was 45 years of age” ;

(4) “Today I more often experience a close presence of persons, even when they are physically elsewhere”;

(5) “Today I feel that the distance between past and  present disappears”; and

(6) “Today I feel a greater state of belonging with both earlier and coming generations”.

Respondents were asked  “Do you recognize this?” with response categories either “yes” (2) or “no” (1), leading to a scale range between 6 and 12. In a pilot study, only the cosmic transcendence sub-scale had a satisfactory level of reliability (Cronbach’s α = 0.67), whereas the scale characteristics for the ego transcendence sub-scale were rather weak (Braam et al. 1998). The reliability of the cosmic transcendence scale in the main LASA study is similar (Cronbach’s α = 0.66). The scale characteristics showed a mean inter-item correlation of 0.25, with all items loading on one factor (Eigenvalue 2.2, explaining 37% of the variance).

Disadvantages of the Cosmic GT1 scale; the Cosmic GT2 scale

Disadvantages of the first version of the cosmic transcendence scale, as applied in four LASA assessment cycles, is that comparison with age 45 in retrospective. This comparison cannot be expected to be reliable. This type of questioning can even evoke an ambiguous response: ‘When I was 45 years of age, I already had this view on life’.  Therefore, in later version of the scale (GT2), this part of the items was omitted (Tornstam, 1997; Braam et al., 2006). Newer gerotranscendence scales also make use of more response options than only ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The Dutch version of the GT2, cosmic transcendence scale, had a better internal consistency (Cronbach’s α = 0.77) than the Dutch GT1.


RELIG14-RELIG19 in: LASAC038 / LASAD038 / LASAE038 / LAS2B038 / LASAF038 (main interview: in Dutch)

Variable information

LASAC038 / LASAD038 / LASAE038 / LAS2B038 / LASAF038;
LASAC238 / LASAD238 / LASAE238 / LAS2B238 / LASAF238 (scale scores: ccos_int, dcos_int, ecos_int and fcos_int)

Availability of information per wave


RELIG14-19 (LASA*038)

¹ More information about the LASA data collection waves is available here.

* 2B=baseline second cohort;
3B=baseline third cohort;
MB=migrants: baseline first cohort

Ma=data collected in main interview

Previous use in LASA

Braam et al. (2006) showed the personal relevance of cosmic transcendence depends on cultural factors such as secularization. He concluded that cosmic transcendence seems to unfold as an important domain in the life view of women, the older old, and the widowed.


  1. Braam, A.W., Bramsen, I., Tilburg, T.G. van, Ploeg, H.M. van der, & Deeg, D.J.H. (2006). Cosmic transcendence and framework of meaning in life: patterns among older adults in the Netherlands. Journals of Gerontology, Social Sciences, 61, S121-128.
  2. Braam, A.W., Deeg, D.J.H., Tilburg, T.G. van, Beek­man, A.T.F., & Tilburg, W. van (1998). Gerotranscendentie als levensperspectief: Een eerste empirische benadering bij ouderen in Nederland [Gerotranscendence as a life cycle perspective: a first empirical approach among older adults in the Netherlands]. Tijdschrift voor Gerontologie en Geriatrie 29, 24-32.
  3. Hoshino, K., Zarit, S.H., & Nakayama, M. (2012). Development of the gerotranscendence scale type 2: Japanese version. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 75 (3), 217-237.
  4. Read, S., Braam, A.W., Lyyra, T.M., & Deeg, D.J.H. (2014). Do negative life events promote gerotranscendence in the second half of life? Aging and Mental Health, 18, 1, 117-124.
  5. Sadler E.A., Braam, A.W., Broese-van Groenou, M.I., Deeg, D.J.H., & Geest, S. van der (2006). Cosmic transcendence, loneliness, and exchange of emotional support with adult children: a study among older parents in The Netherlands. European Journal of Ageing 3, 146-154.
  6. Tornstam, L. (1994). Gerotranscendence – a theo­retical and empirical explora­tion. In: L. E. Thomas & S.A. Eisen­handler (Eds.), Aging and the Reli­gious Dimensi­on, p. 203-225. Westport: Green­wood.
  7. Tornstam, L. (1997). Gerotranscendence in a broad cross-sectional perspective. Journal of Aging and Identity, 2, 17-36.

Date of last update: July, 2014