“Think of the situation in a positive light”: A look at cognitive reappraisal, affective reactivity and health☆

Jessica Maras, Kate A. Leger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Rationale: How individuals regulate their emotions is critical for maintaining health and well-being. For example, reframing a stressful situation in a positive light, a form of cognitive reappraisal, is beneficial for both physical and mental health as well as subjective well-being. However, it is currently unclear why this relationship exists. One potential mechanism could be how one emotionally reacts to stressors in daily life, termed affective reactivity. Objective: The current study examined longitudinal associations that spanned 20 years between cognitive reappraisal and health outcomes and subjective well-being and if affective reactivity mediated this relationship. Methods: Participants completed waves 1–3 of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) Survey series and were asked various questions about their general health and well-being. Each wave was approximately 10 years apart. A subset of participants from MIDUS II completed the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE II), an 8-day daily diary asking about their everyday experiences. The final sample consisted of 1814 participants. Results: Results found that cognitive reappraisal was significantly associated with future health and well-being outcomes, and negative affective reactivity significantly mediated this relationship. Those who engaged more in cognitive reappraisal tended to be less affectively reactive to stressful events 10 years later, leading to having better health and well-being outcomes 20 years later. Conclusion: Findings from this study could better inform stress and well-being interventions by strengthening cognitive reappraisal strategies to target reducing affective reactivity to stressors which should then benefit long-term health and well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116701
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume346
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Affective reactivity
  • Cognitive reappraisal
  • Health
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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