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Aging Associated with Emotional Stability

New research suggests one benefit of growing older is improved emotional stability. Duke and Vanderbilt university investigators also found that older people are also better able to resist temptations in their daily lives.

Prior to the current investigation, research was mixed on whether older adults are better at regulating emotion than younger individuals. Emotional regulation is considered a hallmark feature of emotional health. Moreover, prior research has been based on laboratory studies that may not capture how people regulate their emotions in everyday life.

Investigators now believe the new findings may help to dispel the perception that older people are usually grumpy and have a lower quality of mental health.

“There is evidence here that emotional health and regulation improve with age,” said Daisy Burr, a Duke Ph.D. student who led the study with Dr. Gregory Samanez-Larkin, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience.

The study appears in the journal Emotion.

The researchers pinged 123 study participants aged 20 to 80 on their cell phones three times a day for ten days. Participants were asked to indicate how they felt on a five-point scale for each of eight emotional states, including contentment, enthusiasm, relaxation and sluggishness.

Then they were asked whether they were desiring anything right then, including food or alcohol, cigarettes, social media, shopping, talking to someone, sex, sleep or work. They could report up to three temptations at once.

Each participant had also been assessed on a standard measure of “global life satisfaction,” which determined their general well-being, regardless of the moment-to-moment moods.

What the researchers were looking for is how positive or negative feelings and the ability to resist temptations might change as people get older.

What they found is that the older people in the study were more stable and “less volatile in their emotions,” Samanez-Larkin said. And age, it turns out, is a stronger predictor of the ability to resist temptation than the emotional state.

Samanez-Larkin said a person’s goals change with age. The older person may be more oriented toward the present and “trying to maximize well-being every day. You want to feel good as much as possible.”

The researchers said their findings are a better reflection of real-world conditions because they surveyed participants in their own time and space, rather than having them respond to cues in a laboratory setting. Burr added that older people are better at regulating their emotional state when allowed to do what they want.

In the end, Burr’s analysis of the data found people experiencing more negative affect are worse at resisting desires. Younger study participants who had higher levels of life satisfaction were better able to resist desires.

But older adults were better at resisting temptation, regardless of their life satisfaction.

Source: Duke University/EurekAlert

Aging Associated with Emotional Stability

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Aging Associated with Emotional Stability. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/03/29/aging-associated-with-emotional-stability/155244.html
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Mar 2020 (Originally: 29 Mar 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Mar 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.