Affective science and health: the importance of emotion and emotion regulation

Health Psychol. 2013 May;32(5):474-86. doi: 10.1037/a0030259.


Objective: The goal of this article is to provide insight into how recent findings from affective science may be translated into the health arena.

Methods: We first review definitional issues related to the key concepts of emotion and stress. We then review relevant research that informs our understanding of the affect-health relationship. Subsequently, we highlight findings that are the most informative and also ripe for translation into the domains of health and health-related behaviors.

Results: We identify several domains of affect-relevant processes (e.g., emotion-regulation, stress response) that would benefit from increased elaboration. Three themes may guide how best to broaden our understanding across multiple domains: the need to use a differentiated emotion-based approach, the need to consider potential synergistic and oppositional effects of emotion that can occur in parallel, and the need to examine the impact of emotions with respect to regulation and coping at both the intra- and interindividual levels. Building on insights derived from these themes, we suggest a broad integrative framework for use with future investigations. This framework categorizes potential emotion-related effects on health according to whether they influence health directly (e.g., shaping physiological responses) or indirectly (e.g., guiding decision making and behavior). Using this approach will allow researchers to examine systematically the often simultaneous and sometimes opposing influences of emotion on distinct health-relevant cognitive and physiological mechanisms, and to integrate across potentially disparate findings.

Conclusions: We conclude by suggesting opportunities for future work that we see as most fruitful based on the presented framework.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Affect*
  • Emotions* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Terminology as Topic