Future self-continuity is associated with improved health and increases exercise behavior

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2018 Mar;24(1):72-80. doi: 10.1037/xap0000153.


To the extent that people feel more continuity between their present and future selves, they are more likely to make decisions with the future self in mind. The current studies examined future self-continuity in the context of health. In Study 1, people reported the extent to which they felt similar and connected to their future self; people with more present-future continuity reported having better subjective health across a variety of measures. In Study 2, people were randomly assigned to write a letter to themselves either three months or 20 years into the future; people for whom continuity with the distant future self was enhanced exercised more in the days following the writing task. These findings suggest that future self-continuity promotes adaptive long-term health behavior, suggesting the promise of interventions enhancing future self-continuity. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Forecasting*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Psychological Tests
  • Self Concept*
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult