Links between positive affect (PA) and health have predominantly been investigated by using measures of recollected emotional states. Ecological momentary assessment is regarded as a more precise measure of experienced well-being. We analyzed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, a representative cohort of older men and women living in England. PA was assessed by aggregating momentary assessments over a single day in 3,853 individuals aged 52 to 79 y who were followed up for an average of 5 y. Respondents in the lowest third of PA had a death rate of 7.3%, compared with 4.6% in the medium-PA group and 3.6% in the high-PA group. Cox proportional-hazards regression showed a hazard ratio of 0.498 (95% confidence interval, 0.345–0.721) in the high-PA compared with the low-PA group, adjusted for age and sex. This was attenuated to 0.646 (95% confidence interval, 0.436–0.958) after controlling for demographic factors, negative affect, depressed mood, health indicators, and health behaviors. Negative affect and depressed mood were not related to survival after adjustment for covariates. These findings indicate that experienced PA, even over a single day, has a graded relationship with survival that is not caused by baseline health status or other covariates. Momentary PA may be causally related to survival, or may be a marker of underlying biological, behavioral, or temperamental factors, although reverse causality cannot be conclusively ruled out. The results endorse the value of assessing experienced affect, and the importance of evaluating interventions that promote happiness in older populations.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Quantitating how positive emotions increase longevity.
Increasing general well-being of citizens is usually taken to be the the goal of government and public policy, and MindBlog has pointed to numerous studies that link positive affect and other measures of well-being with longer survival and reduced risk of diseases in old age. But...how is well-being best measured? Most studies have have mainly relied on assessments of recollected emotional states, in which people are asked to rate their feelings of happiness or well-being in general, either without any time frame or over a specific time period. Psychological research has established that recollected affect may diverge from actual experience because it is influenced by errors in recollection, recall biases, focusing illusions, and salient memory heuristics. Steptoe and Wardle1 address the issue that recollected affect may diverge from actual experience because it is influenced by errors in recollection, recall biases, focusing illusions, and salient memory heuristics. They note that the “memory–experience gap” between life as it is remembered and life as it is experienced may be important to the processes through which the past impacts on future behavior. They address this issue by looking at data aggregating momentary affect assessments over a single day for a large number of individuals: