Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 951–963 | Cite as

What Mediates Links Between Age and Well-being? A Test of Social Support and Interpersonal Conflict as Potential Interpersonal Pathways

Research Paper

Abstract

We examined potential nonlinear links between age and subjective well-being, and the interpersonal processes (i.e., support, conflict) responsible for such links. One hundred forty-four men and women between the ages of 30–70 completed measures of satisfaction with life, social support (interpersonal support evaluation list), and social negativity (test of negative social exchanges). Nonlinear regression analyses revealed a significant quadratic trend between age and satisfaction with life (SWL, p = .01) where age was associated with lower SWL in the young to middle-aged sample, but higher SWL in the middle-age to older adult sample. Analyses further revealed that interpersonal tensions statistically mediated the nonlinear links between age and SWL. These data suggest that negative interpersonal exchanges may be important contributors to well-being at midlife.

Keywords

Age Satisfaction with life Midlife Social negativity Social support 

References

  1. Akiyama, H., Antonucci, T., Takahashi, K., & Langfahl, E. S. (2003). Negative interactions in close relationships across the life span. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 58B, P70–P79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aldwin, C. M., & Levenson, M. R. (2001). Stress, coping, and health at mid-life: A developmental perspective. In M. Lachman (Ed.), Handbook of midlife development (pp. 188–214). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  3. Antonucci, T. C., & Akiyama, H. (1987). Social networks in adult life and a preliminary examination of the convoy model. Journal of Gerontology, 42, 519–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baltes, M. M. (1995). Dependency in old age: Gains and losses. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4, 14–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baltes, P. B., Reese, H. W., & Nesselroade, J. R. (1988). Life-span developmental psychology: An introduction to research methods (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Beck, A., Ward, C., Mendelson, M., Mock, J., & Erbaugh, J. (1961). An inventory for measuring depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 4561-4571. Retrieved from PsycINFO database.Google Scholar
  7. Birditt, K. S., Fingerman, K. L., & Almeida, D. M. (2005). Age differences in exposure and reactions to interpersonal tensions: A daily diary study. Psychology and Aging, 20, 330–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blanchard-Fields, F. (2007). Everyday problem solving and emotion. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 26–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blanchard-Fields, F., Mienaltowski, A., & Seay, R. (2007). Age differences in everyday problem-solving effectiveness: Older adults select more effective strategies for interpersonal problems. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Science., 62, P61–P64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2008). Is Wellbeing U-shaped over the Life Cycle? Social Science and Medicine, 66, 1733–1749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Booth, G. L., Kapral, M. K., Fung, K., & Tu, J. V. (2006). Relation between age and cardiovascular disease in men and women with diabetes compared with non-diabetic people: A population-based retrospective cohort study. Lancet, 368, 29–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brim, O. G., Ryff, C. D., & Kessler, R. C. (2004). The MIDUS national survey: An overview. In O. G. Brim, C. D. Ryff & R. C. Kessler (Eds.), How healthy are we?: A national study of well-being at midlife (pp. 1–36). Chicago, IL US: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  13. Brooks, K. & Dunkel Schetter, C. (2011). Social negativity and health. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(11), 904–918.Google Scholar
  14. Caron, J. (2012). Predictors of quality of life in economically disadvantaged populations in Montreal. Social Indicators Research, 107(3), 411–427. doi:10.1007/s11205-011-9855-0.
  15. Caron, J., Latimer, E., & Tousignant, M. (2007). Predictors of psychological distress in low-income populations of Montreal. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 98, 535–544.Google Scholar
  16. Carstensen, L. L., Isaacowitz, D. M., & Charles, S. T. (1999). Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. American Psychologist, 54, 165–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carstensen, L. L., Pasupathi, M., Mayr, U., & Nesselroade, J. R. (2000). Emotional experience in everyday life across the adult life span. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 644–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Charles, S. T. (2010). Strengths and vulnerability integration: A model of emotional well-being across adulthood. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 1068–1091.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Charles, S. T., Reynolds, C. A., & Gatz, M. (2001). Age-related differences and change in positive and negative affect over 23 years. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 136–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Clark, A. E., & Oswald, A. J. (1994). Unhappiness and unemployment. The Economic Journal, 104, 648–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Clark, A. E. & Oswald, A. J. (2006). The curved relationship between subjective well-being and age. PSE working papers 2006-29, PSE.Google Scholar
  22. Cohen, J., & Cohen, P. (1983). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  23. Cohen, S., Mermelstein, R. J., Kamarck, T., & Hoberman, H. M. (1985). Measuring the functional components of social support. In I. G. Sarason & B. Sarason (Eds.), Social support: Theory, research, and application (pp. 73–94). The Hague, Holland: Martinus-Niijhoff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Diener, E., & Chan, M. Y. (2011). Happy people live longer: Subjective well-being contributes to health and longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being., 3(1), 1–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Diener, E., Emmons, R., Larsen, R., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Everard, K. M., Lach, H. W., Fisher, E. B., & Baum, M. C. (2000). Relationship of activity and social support to the functional health of older adults. Journal of Gerontology: Social sciences, 55B, S208–S212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Eysenck, H. J. (1958). A short questionnaire for the measurement of two dimensions of personality. Journal of Applied Psychology, 42, 14–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Finch, J. F., & Zautra, A. J. (1992). Testing latent longitudinal models of social ties and depression among the elderly: A comparison of distribution-free and maximun likelihood estimates with nonnormal data. Psychology and Aging, 7, 107–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fingerman, K. L., & Charles, S. T. (2010). It takes two to tango: Why older people have the best relationships. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19, 172–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fleeson, W. (2004). The quality of American life at the end of the century. In O. G. Brim, C. D. Ryff, & R. C. Kessler (Eds.), How healthy are we? A national study of well-being at midlife (pp. 252–272). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  32. Gerdtham, U.-G., & Johannesson, M. (2001). The relationship between happiness, health, and socio-economic factors: Results based on Swedish microdata. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 30, 553–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gerstorf, D., Ram, N., Rocke, C., Lindenberger, U., & Smith, J. (2008). Declines in life satisfaction in old age: Longitudinal evidence for links to distance -to-death. Psychology and Aging, 23, 154–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Helgeson, V. S. (2003). Social support and quality of life. Quality of Life Research, 12, 25–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kessler, R. C., Mickelson, K. D., Walters, E. E., Zhao, S., & Hamilton, L. (2004). Age and depression in the MIDUS survey. In O. G. Brim, C. D. Ryff, & R. C. Kessler (Eds.), How healthy are we? A national study of well-being at midlife (pp. 227–251). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  36. Krause, N., & Rook, K. S. (2003). Negative interaction in late life: Issues in the stability and generalizability of conflict across relationships. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 58B, P88–P99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Labouvie-Vief, G. (2009). Dynamic integration theory: Emotion, cognition, and equilibrium in later life. In V. Bengtson, M. Silverstein, N. Putney, & D. Gans (Eds.), Handbook of theories of aging (pp. 277–293). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  38. Latten, J. J. (1989). Life-course and satisfaction, equal for every-one? Social Indicators Research, 21, 599–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lawton, M. P. (2001). Emotion in later life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 120–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Levenson, R. W. (2000). Expressive, physiological, and subjective changes in emotion across adulthood. In S. H. Qualls & N. Abeles (Eds.), Psychology and the aging revolution: How we adapt to longer life (pp. 123–140). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Levinson, D., Darrow, C. N., Klein, E. B., Levinson, M. H., & McKee, B. (1978). The seasons of a man’s life. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  42. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. MacKinnon, D. P. (2008). Introduction to statistical mediational analyses. New York: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  44. Magai, C. (2001). Emotions over the life span. In J. E. Birren & K. W. Schaie (Eds.), Handbook of the Psychology of Aging (5th ed., pp. 399–426). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  45. Matt, G. E., & Dean, A. (1993). Social support from friends and psychological distress among elderly persons: Moderator effects of age. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 34, 187–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McCrae, R., & Costa, P. (1990). Personality in adulthood. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  47. Mroczek, D. K. (2004). Positive and negative affect at midlife. In O. G. Brim, C. D. Ryff, & R. C. Kessler (Eds.), How healthy are we? A national study of well-being at midlife (pp. 205–226). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  48. Mroczek, D. K., & Kolarz, C. M. (1998). The effect of age on positive and negative affect: A developmental perspective on happiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1333–1349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mroczek, D. K., & Spiro, A. (2005). Change in life satisfaction over 20 years during adulthood: Findings from the VA normative aging study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 189–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Newsom, J. T., Nishishiba, M., Morgan, D. L., & Rook, K. S. (2003). The relative importance of three domains of positive and negative social exchanges: A longitudinal model with comparable measures. Psychology and Aging, 18, 746–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessment, 5(2), 164–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (2008). The satisfaction with life scale and the emerging construct of life satisfaction. Journal of Positive Psychology, 3, 137–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pinquart, M. (2001). Age differences in perceived positive affect, negative affect, and affect balance in middle and old age. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2, 375–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simply mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers, 36, 717–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ro, E., & Lawrence, E. (2007). Comparing three measures of psychological aggression: Psychometric properties and differentiation from negative communication. Journal of Family Violence, 22, 575–586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rook, K. S. (1984). The negative side of social interaction: Impact on psychological well being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 1097–1108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rook, K. S. (2003). Exposure and reactivity to negative social exchanges: A preliminary investigation using daily diary data. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 58B, P100–P111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rossi, A. S. (2004). Social responsibility to family and community. In O. G. Brim, C. D. Ryff, & R. C. Kessler (Eds.), How healthy are we? A national study of well-being at midlife (pp. 550–585). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  59. Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L. (1998). Successful aging. New York: Pantheon/Random House.Google Scholar
  60. Rucker, D. D., Preacher, K. J., Tormala, Z. L., & Petty, R. E. (2011). Mediation analysis in social psychology: Current practices and new recommendations. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5, 359–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Ruehlman, L. S., & Karoly, P. (1991). With a little flak from my friends: Development and preliminary validation of the test of negative social exchange (TENSE). Psychological Assessment, 3, 97–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Schilling, O. (2006). Development of life satisfaction in old age: Another view on the “paradox.”. Social Indicators Research, 75, 241–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Schoenfeld, D., Malmrose, L., Blazer, D., & Gold, D. (1994). Self-rated health and mortality in the high-functioning elderly: A closer look at healthy individuals: MacArthur Field Study of Successful Aging. Journals of Gerontology, 49(3), M109–MM1115. Retrieved from PsycINFO database.Google Scholar
  64. Shumacher, J. A., & Leonard, K. E. (2005). Husbands’ and wives’ marital adjustment, verbal aggression, and physical aggression as longitudinal predictors of physical aggression in early marriage. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 28–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Steverink, N., & Lindenberg, S. (2006). Which social needs are important for subjective well-being? What happens to them with aging? Psychology and Aging, 21, 281–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Thoits, P. (2011). Mechanisms linking social ties and support to physical and mental health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 52, 145–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Uchino, B. N. (2004). Social support and physical health: Understanding the health consequences of our relationships. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Uchino, B. N., Holt-Lunstad, J., Uno, D., & Flinders, J. B. (2001). Heterogeneity in the social networks of young and older adults: prediction of mental health and cardiovascular reactivity during acute stress. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 24, 361–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Uchino, B. N., Uno, D., Holt-Lunstad, J., & Flinders, J. B. (1999). Age-related differences in cardiovascular reactivity Turing acute psychological stress in men and women. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 54B, P339–P346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wethingon, E., Kessler, R. C., & Pixley, J. E. (2004). In O. G. Brim, C. D. Ryff, & R. C. Kessler (Eds.), How healthy are we? A national study of well-being at midlife (pp. 586–613). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  71. Wills, T. A., & Shinar, O. (2000). Measuring perceived and received social support. In S. Cohen, L. Gordon, & B. Gottlieb (Eds.), Social support measurement and intervention: A guide for health and social scientists (pp. 86–135). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Windsor, T. D., & Anstey, K. J. (2010). Age differences in psychosocial predictors of positive and negative affect: A longitudinal investigation of young, midlife, and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 25, 641–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Yanos, P. T., Rosenfield, S., & Horwitz, A. V. (2001). Negative and supportive social interactions and quality of life among persons diagnosed with severe mental illness. Community Mental Health Journal, 37, 405–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Darbonne
    • 1
  • Bert N. Uchino
    • 1
  • Anthony D. Ong
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Health Psychology ProgramUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human DevelopmentColumbia UniversityNew York CityUSA

Personalised recommendations