Emotional experience in everyday life across the adult life span

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000 Oct;79(4):644-55.


Age differences in emotional experience over the adult life span were explored, focusing on the frequency, intensity, complexity, and consistency of emotional experience in everyday life. One hundred eighty-four people, age 18 to 94 years, participated in an experience-sampling procedure in which emotions were recorded across a 1-week period. Age was unrelated to frequency of positive emotional experience. A curvilinear relationship best characterized negative emotional experience. Negative emotions declined in frequency until approximately age 60, at which point the decline ceased. Individual factor analyses computed for each participant revealed that age was associated with more differentiated emotional experience. In addition, periods of highly positive emotional experience were more likely to endure among older people and periods of highly negative emotional experience were less stable. Findings are interpreted within the theoretical framework of socioemotional selectivity theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged