Daily Goals and Psychological Well-Being in Midlife and Older Women: Physical Pain Interacts with Goal Conflict

Res Hum Dev. 2016;13(4):328-341. doi: 10.1080/15427609.2016.1234306. Epub 2016 Oct 31.


Physical pain is more prevalent with older age and female gender, and pain can interfere with goal pursuit and its psychological benefit. In particular, insofar as pain is associated with fatigue, it may limit resources for goal pursuit and increase goal resource conflict: the competition between goals for time and energy. Therefore, the pursuit of goals with high value and low resource conflict should provide the most psychological benefit, particularly for women who experience physical pain. Women in middle and older age (N = 200) completed up to 7 daily diaries (n = 1,380), in which they reported and rated their daily goals and assessed their daily pain, distress, fatigue, and cognitive function. Raters also assessed goal conflict. Multilevel models tested the within- and between-person relationships of goal value and goal conflict with daily distress, fatigue, and cognitive function, as well as moderation by pain. Higher goal value was associated with less distress and fatigue and better cognitive function within and between women. Depending on whether or not a woman had physical pain, goal conflict had different relationships with fatigue and cognitive function: for women with no pain, there was a modest positive relationship between goal conflict and both cognitive difficulties and subjective fatigue; for women with pain, there was a negative relationship between goal conflict and both cognitive difficulties and subjective fatigue. Results suggest women without pain may be taxed by their goal conflict, whereas women with pain may regulate their goal conflict in response to their available resources.