Give Now

A Moment of Science

Calm Old Age

Some social scientists found that overall, aging is associated more with positive, passive emotions instead of negative, active emotions.

Two older Chinese men in park

Photo: whitecat singapore (flickr)

Older people like these men enjoying their time spent at a park in China are associated more with feeling positive, passive emotions

If there were a potion that would allow you to stay young forever, would you take it? It seems obvious, right? Who wouldn’t want to recapture their youth? A common perception is that old age encompasses little more than disease, loneliness, and depression.

However, social scientists at the University of Texas have found that overall, aging is associated more with positive, passive emotions instead of negative, active emotions.  Emotions can be passive and active as well as positive and negative.  For example, feeling calm is a passive emotion. And it’s also usually seen as positive. Anxiety and anger, on the other hand, are clearly negative emotions. And at least in many cases they’re also active.

In general, aging seems to make us more emotionally passive. And being passive seems to correlate more with positive emotions like calm and contentment. It’s not clear why aging has this effect, but maybe it’s because when you’re older you’re no longer trying to prove yourself, no longer as anxious about getting ahead. Although, to be fair, the researchers found that the richer and more educated you are, the more you experience positive emotions.  Ultimately, though, growing old might not be so bad after all.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science