Emotional approach coping in older adults as predictor of physical and mental health.

Michael A. Hoyt, Ashley Wei Ting Wang, Ian A. Boggero, Tory A. Eisenlohr-Moul, Annette L. Stanton, Suzanne C. Segerstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Emotional approach coping involves active attempts at emotional expression and processing in response to stressful circumstances. This study tested whether dispositional emotional approach coping processes predict changes in physical and mental health in community-dwelling older adults, particularly within the context of higher perceived stress. To test this, older adults (N = 150) completed assessments of emotional expression and emotional processing at study entry. They also completed measures of perceived stress, depressive symptoms, and ill-health (a composite of subjective and objective physical health indicators, which included blood draw for collection of biomarkers), every 6 months over 4.5 years. Emotional processing and emotional expression were not related significantly to ill-health at study entry. However, emotional processing (but not emotional expression) significantly predicted changes in ill-health. At higher levels of emotional processing, ill-health remained low and stable; at lower levels of emotional processing, ill-health increased over time. However, when perceived stress was high, higher emotional processing and emotional expression were related to lower depressive symptoms at study entry, but higher emotional processing was associated with increasing depressive symptoms over time. Emotional approach coping processes evidence prospective relations with health outcomes, which are partially conditioned by stress perceptions. Emotional processing appears to have a protective impact against declining physical health. Predictive relationships for depressive symptoms are more complex. Older adults with chronically high perceived stress might benefit from interventions that target emotion-regulating coping processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-603
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology and Aging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association


  • depressive symptoms
  • emotional approach coping
  • emotional expression
  • emotional processing
  • older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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