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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2015 May;70(3):398-406. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbt107. Epub 2013 Oct 29.

Emotional Reactivity and Mortality: Longitudinal Findings From the VA Normative Aging Study.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Department of Medical Social Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois.
  • 2School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis.
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, New York.
  • 4Department of Human Development & Family Studies, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.
  • 5Department of Human Development & Family Studies and Center for Healthy Aging, Pennsylvania State University, University Park.
  • 6Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh.



Evidence suggests a predictive association between emotion and mortality risk. However, no study has examined dynamic aspects of emotion in relation to mortality. This study used an index of emotional reactivity, defined as changes in positive or negative affect in response to daily stressors, to predict 10-year survival.


An 8-day daily diary study was conducted in 2002 on 181 men aged 58-88. Multilevel models were employed to estimate emotional reactivity coefficients, which were subsequently entered into a Cox proportional hazards model to predict mortality.


Results indicated that positive emotional reactivity, that is, greater decreases in positive affect in response to daily stressors, increased mortality risk. Negative emotional reactivity did not predict mortality.


Findings highlight the potential importance of dynamic aspects of positive affect in prediction of physical health outcomes such as mortality.

© The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


Emotion; Emotion Regulation; Longevity; Personality; Quantitative Methods.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
[Available on 2016-05-01]
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