The effect of aging on emotional well-being is generally positive. Age brings acceptance which can be defined as the process of deliberately and non-judgmentally engaging negative emotions. Over time we have greater awareness and understanding. Acceptance does not depend upon mental capabilities or brain processing speed. Uncertainty, unpredictability and impermanence is better accepted with age. There is some evidence that today’s younger adults may not show increasing acceptance with age.
Another effect of age is decreasing anger. Sadness however is not reduced. One theory suggests that social connectedness is hindered by anger and anxiety, but helped by sadness. The difficulty with social connectedness as we age is fewer structured activities that promote connectedness.
“Life satisfaction is a comparison of life circumstances to one’s internal expectations. Satisfaction is affected by age and gender. Younger people tend to be unrealistic about the future, while older people are more realistic about the past and the future.”
Evidence for the effects of age on anger, sadness and anxiety comes from a study measuring these emotions. A survey was given to people ages 21–73 before and after exposure to a stressful situation. Daily reports were also collected for two weeks. People were shown an emotionally-neutral short film prior to getting baseline measures, then they were given two minutes to prepare a speech stating their qualifications for a new job while being videotaped. The study results confirmed decreased anxiety and anger, but not sadness.
Life satisfaction is a comparison of life circumstances to one’s internal expectations. Satisfaction is affected by age and gender. Younger people tend to be unrealistic about the future, while older people are more realistic about the past and the future. Men most highly rate satisfaction on partnership and financial position while women rate on partnership, relationship with children, sexuality, work situation, contribution to others’ welfare and financial situation.
One survey of people ages 30–74 rated life satisfaction on health, financials, work, contribution to others’ welfare, relationship with children, partnership relations, and sexuality now, ten years ago and ten years from now. In all cohorts life was rated better now than in the past on all measures except for health and sex. People report health was worse than in the past and did not expect improvement, while sex was worse than in the past but expected to improve. The oldest cohorts were more satisfied with their partners than the youngest group.