Pain, Goal Engagement, and Eudemonic Well-Being: Moderation by Autonomous Motivation

Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Addison D. Monroe, Leslie J. Crofford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Pain may decrease well-being in older adults by limiting social and leisure activities. However, some activities can exacerbate pain. We hypothesized that autonomously motivated goal engagement could ameliorate negative effects of pain on goal engagement and amplify positive effects of goal engagement on eudemonic well-being (EWB). Methods: Midlife and older women (N = 200) were oversampled for chronic pain. Daily diaries (n = 10,697) including goal lists and ratings, pain, and EWB were completed for 7 days every 3 months for 2 years. Results: Pain was not a correlate of goal engagement. More engagement was associated with higher EWB when motivation was autonomous. However, more goal engagement correlated with lower EWB the next day and, when not autonomously motivated, higher pain. Discussion: Goal engagement can benefit people with or without physical pain, but the motivation behind goal engagement is equally if not more important. Goals motivated by autonomous sources increase EWB and may protect against maladaptive patterns of activity associated with pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-498
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


  • Goals
  • Motivation
  • Pain
  • Self-determination
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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