The Health Significance of Positive Emotions in Adulthood and Later Life



A growing body of literature supports a link between positive emotions and health in older adults. In this article, we review evidence of the effects of positive emotions on downstream biological processes and meaningful clinical endpoints, such as adult morbidity and mortality. We then present relevant predictions from lifespan theories that suggest changes in cognition and motivation may play an important role in explaining how positive emotions are well maintained in old age, despite pervasive declines in cognitive processes. We conclude by discussing how the application of psychological theory can inform greater understanding of the adaptive significance of positive emotions in adulthood and later life.