Perceived Collective Use of Selection, Optimisation, and Compensation: Associations with Work Ability




Health, Working Environment & Wellbeing, Organization & Management


Background: Individual use of selection, optimisation, and compensation (SOC) is positively associated with work ability; however, this association has never been explored at the group or leadership levels.
Aim: The aim of this study is to explore the strength of associations between employee-rated use of SOC at the individual, group, and leadership levels and self-rated work ability among nurses. Method: A random sample of 2000 nurses were invited to participate in a questionnaire survey, among whom 785 responded.
Results: Employee-rated use of SOC at the individual and group levels was positively associated with self-rated work ability when controlling for psychosocial working environment factors and health. The association was strongest at the group level.
Conclusion: Efforts to enhance the collective use of SOC may prove beneficial to maintain the work ability of nurses and retain them in the profession.

Author Biographies

Annette Meng, National Research Center for the Working Environment

Researcher. E-mail:

Iben Louise Karlsen, National Research Center for the Working Environment


Vilhelm Borg, National Research Center for the Working Environment


Thomas Clausen, National Research Center for the Working Environment

Senior researcher


Abraham, J. D., & Hanson, R. O. (1995). Successful Aging at Work: An Applied Study of Selection, Optimization, and Compensation Through Impression Management, Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 50B(2), 94-103.

Baethge, A., Muller, A., & Rigotti, T. (2016). Nursing performance under high workload: a diary study on the moderating role of selection, optimization and compensation strategies, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 72(3), 545-557.

Baltes, B. B., & Dickson, M. W. (2001). Using Life-Span Models in Industrial-Organizational Psychology: The Theory of Selective Optimization With Compensation, Applied Developmental Science, 5(1), 51-62.

Baltes, B. B., & Heydens-Gahir, H. A. (2003). Reduction of work-family conflict through the use of selection, optimization, and compensation behaviors, Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(6), 1005-1018.

Baltes, M. M., & Carstensen, L. L. (1999). Social-Psychological Theories and Their Application to Aging:From Individual to Collective. In V. L. Bengtson & K. W. Schaie (Eds.), Handbook of Theories og Aging (pp. 209-226). New York: Springer.

Baltes, P. B., & Baltes, M. M. (1990). Psychological perspectives on successful aging: The model of selective optimization with compensation. In P. B. Baltes & M. M. Baltes (Eds.), Successful aging: Perspectives from the behavioral sciences (pp. 1-34). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Camerino, D., Conway, P. M., Van der Heijden, B. I., Estryn-Behar, M., Consonni, D., Gould, D., & Hasselhorn, H. M. (2006). Low-perceived work ability, ageing and intention to leave nursing: a comparison among 10 European countries, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 56(5), 542-552.

Clausen, T., Madsen, I. E., Christensen, K. B., Bjorner, J. B., Poulsen, O. M., Maltesen, T., . . . Rugulies, R. (2019). The Danish Psychosocial Work Environment Questionnaire (DPQ): Development, content, reliability and validity, Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, 45(4), 356-369.

Clausen, T., Meng, A., & Borg, V. (2019). Does Social Capital in the Workplace Predict Job Performance, Work Engagement, and Psychological Well-Being? A Prospective Analysis. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 61(10), 800-805.

Clausen, T., Tufte, P., & Borg, V. (2012). Why are they leaving? Causes of actual turnover in the Danish eldercare services, Journal of Nursing Management, 22(5), 583-592.

Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., & Leiter, M. (2014). Burnout and job performance: the moderating role of selection, optimization, and compensation strategies, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 19(1), 96-107.

DSR. (2021). Mangel på sygeplejersker: Udfordringer og løsninger til politisk debat [Shortage of nurses: Challenges and solutions for political debate].

Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS statistics (4th ed.), London: Sage.

Fisher, G. G., Chaffee, D. S., & Sonnega, A. (2016). Retirement Timing: A Review and recommendations for Future Research, Work, Aging and Retirement, 2(2), 230-261.

Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of Resources, American Psychologist, 44(3), 513-524.

Ilmarinen, J. (2006). The Work Ability Index (WAI), Occupational Medicine, 57(2), 160-160.

Ilmarinen, J., Tuomi, K., & Klockars, M. (1997). Changes in the work ability of active employees as measured by the work ability index over an 11-year period, Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, 23(1).

Koolhaas, W., van der Klink, J. J., de Boer, M. R., Groothoff, J. W., & Brouwer, S. (2014). Chronic health conditions and work ability in the ageing workforce: the impact of work conditions, psychosocial factors and perceived health, International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 87(4), 433-443.

Kouvonen, A., Oksanen, T., Vahtera, J., Stafford, M., Wilkinson, R., Schneider, J., . . . Kivimaki, M. (2008). Low workplace social capital as a predictor of depression: the Finnish Public Sector Study, American Journal of Epidemiology, 167(10), 1143-1151.

Kowalski, C., Ommen, O., Driller, E., Ernstmann, N., Wirtz, M. A., Kohler, T., & Pfaff, H. (2010). Burnout in nurses - the relationship between social capital in hospitals and emotional exhaustion, Journal of Clinical Nursing, 19(11-12), 1654-1663.

Kubicek, B., Paškvan, M., & Korunka, C. (2014). Development and validation of an instrument for assessing job demands arising from accelerated change: The intensification of job demands scale (IDS), European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 24(6), 898-913.

Mauno, S., Kubicek, B., T., F., & Minkkinen, J. (2020). Intensified job demands and job performance: does SOC strategy use make a difference? Industrial Health, 58, 224-237.

McMichael, A. J. (1976). Standardized mortality ratios and the "healthy worker effect": Scratching beneath the surface, Journal of Occupational Medicine, 18(3), 165-168.

Meng, A., Karlsen, I. L., Borg, V., & Clausen, T. (2021). Development of a Questionnaire for Measuring Employees’ Perception of Selection, Optimisation and Compensation at the Leadership, Group and Individual Levels, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(12).

Moghimi, D., Scheibe, S., & Freund, A. M. (2019). The Model of Selection, optimization, Compensation. In B. B. Baltes, C. W. Rudolph, & H. Zacher (Eds.), Work Across the Lifespan (pp. 81-110). Elsevier.

Moghimi, D., Zacher, H., Scheibe, S., & Van Yperen, N. W. (2017). The selection, optimization, and compensation model in the work context: A systematic review and meta-analysis of two decades of research, Journal of Organizational Behavior, 38(2), 247-275.

Müller, A., Angerer, P., Becker, A., Gantner, M., Gündel, H., Heiden, B., . . . Kooij, D. (2018). Bringing Successful Aging Theories to Occupational Practice: Is Selective Optimization With Compensation Trainable? Work, Aging and Retirement, 4(2), 161-174.

Müller, A., Heiden, B., Herbig, B., Poppe, F., & Angerer, P. (2015). Improving well-being at work: A randomized controlled intervention based on selection, optimization, and compensation, Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 21(2), 169-181.

Müller, A., & Weigl, M. (2017). SOC Strategies and Organizational Citizenship Behaviors toward the Benefits of Co-workers: A Multi-Source Study, Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1740.

Müller, A., Weigl, M., Heiden, B., Glaser, J., & Angerer, P. (2012). Promoting work ability and well-being in hospital nursing: the interplay of age, job control, and successful ageing strategies, Work, 41 Suppl 1, 5137-5144.

Müller, A., Weigl, M., Heiden, B., Herbig, B., Glaser, J., & Angerer, P. (2012). Selection, optimization, and compensation in nursing: exploration of job-specific strategies, scale development, and age-specific associations to work ability, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 69(7), 1630-1642.

Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J. Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: a critical review of the literature and recommended remedies, Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879-903.

Riedel, N., Müller, A., & Ebener, M. (2015). Applying Strategies of Selection, Optimization, and Compensation to Maintain Work Ability - A Psychosocial resource Complementing the Job demand-Control Model? Results From the Representative lidA Cohort Study on Work, Age, and Health in Germany, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 57(5), 552-561.

Segura-Camacho, A., Rodriguez-Cifuentes, F., Saenz De la Torre, L. C., & Topa, G. (2018). Successful Aging at Work: Psychometric Properties of the Spanish Version of Selection, Optimization and Compensation Questionnaire, Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 410.

Sottimano, I., Guidetti, G., Viotti, S., & Converso, D. (2019). The Interplay between Job Control, SOC Strategies, and Age in Sustaining Work Ability in a Sample of Administrative Employees, Sustainability, 11(5).

Stedman, R. C., Connelly, N. A., Heberlein, T. A., Decker, D. J., & Allred, S. B. (2019). The End of the (Research) World As We Know It? Understanding and Coping With Declining Response Rates to Mail Surveys, Society & Natural Resources, 32(10), 1139-1154.

Sørensen, O. H., Hasle, P., Hesselholt, R. R., & Herbøl, K. (2012). Nordiske forskningsperspektiver på arbejdsmiljø. Mening, indflydelse og samarbejde [Nordic research perspectives on work environment. Meaning, influence, and cooperation]. N. Ministerråd.

Tuckett, A., Winters-Chang, P., Bogossian, F., & Wood, M. (2015). 'Why nurses are leaving the profession ... lack of support from managers': What nurses from an e-cohort study said, International Journal of Nursing Practice, 21(4), 359-366.

van den Berg, S., Burdorf, A., & Robroek, S. J. W. (2017). Associations between common diseases and work ability and sick leave among health care workers. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 90(7), 685-693.

von Bonsdorff, M. E., von Bonsdorff, M. B., Zhou, Z. E., Kauppinen, M., Miettinen, M., Rantanen, T., & Vanhala, S. (2014). Organizational justice, selection, optimization with compensation, and nurses' work ability, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 56(3), 326-330.

Weber, J., Muller, A., Stiller, M., & Borchart, D. (2018). Prognostic effects of selection, optimization and compensation strategies on work ability: results from the representative lidA cohort study on work, age, and health in Germany, International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 91(8), 1061-1071.

WHO. (2020). WHO and partners call for urgent investment in nurses. Accessed November 2020.

Wiese, B. S., Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2002). Subjective career success and emotional well-being: Longitudinal predictive power of selection, optimization, and compensation. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 60(3), 321-335.

Yeung, D. Y., & Fung, H. H. (2009). Aging and work: how do SOC strategies contribute to job performance across adulthood? Psychology and Aging, 24(4), 927-940.

Žmauc, T., Železnik, D., & Težak, O. (2019). Relationship between Selection, Optimization and Compensation and the Work Ability of Nurses over Fifty Years of Age, Organizacija, 52(4), 253-270.




How to Cite

Meng, A., Karlsen, I. L., Borg, V., & Clausen, T. (2022). Perceived Collective Use of Selection, Optimisation, and Compensation: Associations with Work Ability. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies.