Does Chronic Stress Moderate Age Differences in Emotional Well-Being? Testing Predictions of Strength and Vulnerability Integration

Martin J. Sliwinski, Sara Freed, Stacey B. Scott, Giancarlo Pasquini, Joshua M. Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The Strength and Vulnerability Integration (SAVI) theory posits boundary conditions, such as chronic stress, which place constraints on positive emotional aging. We examine SAVI's prediction that higher levels of chronic stress will attenuate favorable age gradients for multiple indices of well-being. Methods: We used cross-sectional data from a diverse systematic probability sample of adults (n = 260, ages 25-65). Multiple regression analysis was used to examine age gradients and test age × chronic stress interactions on 5 measures of well-being relevant for SAVI's prediction: positive and negative affect, life satisfaction, emotional distress, and rumination. Results: Age was unrelated to well-being unless individual differences in health limitations were statistically controlled, in which case older age was associated with more favorable levels of well-being. Chronic stress significantly interacted with age for negative affect, emotional distress, rumination, and life satisfaction; examination of the interactions indicated that age was no longer associated with more favorable levels of well-being at higher levels of chronic stress. Discussion: Our findings support a key prediction of SAVI by demonstrating that high levels of chronic stress present a boundary condition for favorable age gradients on well-being. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the "paradox"of well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1104-1113
Number of pages10
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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