Age differences in wellbeing: the role of emotion regulation, cognitive biases and coping
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 13:27 authored by Dusanka Tadic
A vast amount of research is showing that despite an array of losses that accompany older age, including declines in cognition, physiology and social networks, older adults maintain a higher level of wellbeing than younger adults (Kunzmann, Little, & Smith, 2000). A decrease in the prevalence of depression and anxiety with age has also been observed (Jorm, 2000), however it is unclear why this is the case. A number of explanations have been proposed. Some researchers suggest that older adults are better at regulating their emotions. Alternatively, age-differences in cognitive processing have been implicated in the development and maintenance of emotional disorders, including attention, memory and interpretation biases. Finally, a contextual hypothesis, based on changes in life roles and demands, as well as coping has been proposed. The present thesis investigates these three hypotheses. The first paper examined age differences in emotion regulation by assessing the subjective and physiological indices of recovery from discrete emotions (happiness, sadness and anxiety), and the role of spontaneous emotion regulation in rate of recovery from these emotions. The second and third papers examined age differences in cognitive biases, specifically focusing on negative expectancy bias (i.e. making distorted predictions about the future), and interpretation bias (i.e. the tendency to assign more negative as opposed to neutral or positive meanings to ambiguous situations). Finally, the fourth paper assessed the behavioural coping strategies that younger and older adults use to cope with daily stressors. The results of this thesis will contribute to our understanding of the role emotion regulation, cognitive biases and coping play in maintaining lower levels of anxiety and depression in older adults, as well as help inform psychological treatments for these disorders.