According to a new study by the Duke and Vanderbilt University psychologists, older people tend to stay emotionally strong. They are better able to resist temptations in their daily lives.
The study offers evidence that emotional health and regulation improve with age.
Scientists used experience sampling to examine how multiple measures of emotional health, including mean effect, dynamic fluctuations between affective states, and the ability to resist desires—a common form of emotion regulation—differ in daily life across adulthood.
Scientists 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.
Scientists also assessed each participant on a standard measure of “global life satisfaction,” which determined their general well-being, regardless of the moment-to-moment moods.
They found that the participants were more stable and “less volatile in their emotions.
Gregory Samanez-Larkin, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, said, “And age, it turns out, is a stronger predictor of the ability to resist temptation than the emotional state.”
“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.”
“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, the 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.
- Emotion Dynamics Across Adulthood in Everyday Life: Older Adults are More Stable in Their Affective Experiences and Better at Regulating Desires. DOI: 10.1037/emo0000734