Optimism, Daily Stressors, and Emotional Well-Being Over Two Decades in a Cohort of Aging Men.

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Growing evidence supports optimism as a health asset, yet how optimism influences well-being and health remains uncertain. We evaluated 1 potential pathway-the association of optimism with daily stress processes-and tested 2 hypotheses. The stressor exposure hypothesis posits that optimism would preserve emotional well-being by limiting exposure to daily stressors. The buffering hypothesis posits that higher optimism would be associated with lower emotional reactivity to daily stressors and more effective emotional recovery from them.


Participants were 233 men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study who completed the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 Revised Optimism-Pessimism scale in 1986/1991 and participated in up to three 8-day daily diary bursts in 2002-2010 (age at first burst: M = 76.7, SD = 6.5). Daily stressor occurrence, positive affect (PA), and negative affect (NA) were assessed nightly. We evaluated the hypotheses using multilevel structural equation models.


Optimism was unrelated to emotional reactivity to or recovery from daily stressors. Higher optimism was associated with higher average daily PA (B = 2.31, 95% Bayesian credible interval [BCI]: 1.24, 3.38) but not NA, independent of stressor exposure. Lower stressor exposure mediated the association of higher optimism with lower daily NA (indirect effect: B = -0.27, 95% BCI: -0.50, -0.09), supporting the stressor exposure hypothesis.


Findings from a sample of older men suggest that optimism may be associated with more favorable emotional well-being in later life through differences in stressor exposure rather than emotional stress response. Optimism may preserve emotional well-being among older adults by engaging emotion regulation strategies that occur relatively early in the emotion-generative process.

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci
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Optimism, Daily Stressors, and Emotional Well-Being Over Two Decades in a Cohort of Aging Men.
Lee LO, Grodstein F, Trudel-Fitzgerald C, James P, Okuzono SS, Koga HK, Schwartz J, Spiro A, Mroczek DK, Kubzansky LD