How Positive Emotion Protects Against Poor Health in Later Life
The new issue of the journal ‘Current Directions in Psychological Science’ includes an article entitled,
‘Pathways Linking Positive Emotion and Health in Later Life.’
The author is Anthony D. Ong.
The article begins as follows…
‘There is growing empirical evidence that positive emotion protects against poor health outcomes in later life.
Two recent reviews have documented a robust association between positive emotion and improved health (Chida & Steptoe, 2008; Pressman & Cohen, 2005).
Across experimental and large-scale prospective studies, significant aspects of adult health predicted by positive emotion include self- reported health, physiological responses, physical functioning, disease severity, and mortality.
In this article, I review the biobehavioral and psychosocial pathways that may account for the relationship between positive emotion and health in later adulthood.
Although the literature is not without theoretical gaps and methodological inconsistencies (see Pressman & Cohen, 2005, for a discussion), overall, the data suggest that positive emotions have demonstrable health benefits in later life, the net effect of which may be to slow or delay the rate of functional decline in resilience.’
The article concludes like this…
‘Three decades ago, Lazarus, Kanner, and Folkman (1980) suggested that under intensely stressful conditions, positive emotions may provide an important psychological time-out, help to sustain continued coping efforts, and replenish vital resources that have been depleted by stress. Until recently, there has been little empirical support for these ideas. Foundational evidence for the adaptive function of positive emotion is now beginning to accrue, however. Taken together, the available data indicate that there is no single answer to the question of how positive emotion influences health outcomes in later adulthood. Instead, findings suggest that health behaviors, physiological systems, stressor exposure, and stress undoing may be among the key pathways underlying disparities in physical health, psychological well-being, and even longevity in later life.
Future work building on these findings will require greater attention to the interaction between increasing positive emotion and the presence of decreasing resilience with aging. Targeted prevention and intervention strategies that enhance positive emotions, particularly among the most vulnerable, are likely to play an important role in preventing serious physical illness, minimizing the burden of stress, and improving overall functioning in older adults.’
In addition to the reference section, there’s a small bit on ‘Recommended Reading’:
Charles, S.T., & Carstensen, L.L. (2009). Social and emotional aging.
Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 383-409. A comprehensive, highly accessible overview of what is known about socioemotional development.
Fredrickson, B.L. (2003). The value of positive emotions. American Scientist, 91, 330-335. A clearly written review for readers who wish to expand their knowledge on positive emotions.
Ong, A.D., Bergeman, C.S., & Chow, S.M. (2009). Positive emotions as a basic building block of resilience in adulthood. In J. Reich, A. Zautra, & J. Hall (Eds.), Handbook of adult resilience: Concepts, methods, and applications (pp. 81-93). New York, NY: Guilford. A highly accessible overview of what is known about positive emotions and resilience in later life.
Zautra, A.J. (2003). Emotions, stress, and health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. A thorough, far-reaching theoretical analysis of the relationships between stress, emotions, and health.
The author note provides the following contact information: Anthony D. Ong, Department of Human Development, G77 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-4401; <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Increasingly, science is proving the necessity of positive emotions (e.g., pride, love, curiosity, interest, passion) for a thriving, meaningful, happy life. Currently, there are more than 70,000 empirical studies looking at these very topics (e.g., self-compassion, mindfulness, love, life satisfaction, curiosity, engagement, the zone, passion, strengths, purpose and meaning) under the umbrella term positive psychology.
For more information on ways to cultivate more positive emotions in your life, visit http://www.GuidetoSelf.com to get a free copy of Dr. John’s award-winning self-help book, ‘Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought.’ It has the latest in positive psychology and tools to make you more aware of and ways to create more positive emotions in your life.
Positive emotions are an instrumental part of any top-notch anger management program as well for the same reasons (e.g., they act as a hidden Reset button for negative physiological effects of destructive emotions, they make us feel more connected and they build enduring resources within). For more information on the best anger management programs which include a positive psychology perspective and ways to create more positive emotions in your life, visit Dr. John’s recently developed online anger management course at http://www.webangermanagement.com. There you will find several free videos sharing the latest tools to turn down the volume on anger AS WELL AS the latest tools to turn up the volume on positive emotions.
To life, love and laughter,
John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Founder Guide to Self, Inc.
Award-winning author, blogger and mental health coach
The simple joy of bubbles!
P.S. Also be sure to check out John’s other fantastic blog on free online anger management classes at http://drjohnsblog.wordpress.com.