Emotional Health Improves With Age. Part 1

Posted by Lloyd on February 03, 2012
Anti Aging

Fine wine and blue jeans aren’t the only things that get better with age. A new study says your emotional maturity also flourishes as time goes by.

Though your motions may slow down as you get older, your emotions rev up to new levels of complexity and intensity. That’s what psychologists discovered when they tracked the emotional highs and lows of 184 adults, ranging from age 18 to 94 years old, for a week.

The study found that while people over age 65 generally feel the same number of positive emotions as younger adults, they experience far fewer negative feelings. Moreover, seniors know how to bounce back from negative emotions faster than younger people do.

“We discovered that older adults experience a richness of emotions unlike anyone else,” said Laura L. Carstensen, Ph.D., vice chair of Department of Psychology at Stanford University in California and leader of the experiment. “An older person, for example, can feel intense satisfaction and sadness at the same time.”

On the other hand, she says, a typical 18-year-old can only feel overall positive or negative feelings at once.

Participants in the study were given stacks of “emotion response sheets” and asked to mark down how intensely they felt 19 different emotions on a scale from 1 to 7. The researchers gave the group pagers, and instructed them to fill out an emotional response sheet every time they were paged. They were paged randomly five times a day over a week. The study was published in the October 2000 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

At the end of the experiment, Carstensen and her colleagues had 665 emotional data points on each participant, with which they could assess “the frequency, intensity and complexity of emotional experiences in their every day lives,” according to the study. Most noticeably, people over age 65 ascribed more middle numbers to their emotions, while young adults generally ranked each one either at the highest or lowest end.

“Our older participants showed a higher self-knowledge, or poignancy, about their emotions,” Carstensen said. “While young people tended to describe a particular emotion as either on or off.”

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