Across midlife and into old age, older adults often report lower levels of negative affect and similar if not higher levels of positive affect than relatively younger adults. Researchers have offered a simple explanation for this result: Age is related to reductions in stressors and increases in pleasurable activities that result in higher levels of well-being. The current study examines subjective reports of emotional experience assessed across 8 days in a large sample of adults (N = 2,022) ranging from 35 to 84 years old. By modeling age differences before and after adjusting for daily positive uplifts and negative stressors, this article assesses the extent to which daily events account for age differences in positive and negative affect reports. Consistent with previous research, the authors found that older age is related to lower mean levels and shorter duration of a negative emotional experience in a model only adjusting for gender, education, and ethnicity. After adjusting for daily events, however, the linear age-related effects were no longer significant. For positive affect, adjusting for daily events did not alter age-related patterns of experiencing higher mean levels and longer positive experience duration, suggesting that other factors underlie age-related increases in positive affect.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Geriatrics and Gerontology