Emotional complexity and emotional well-being in older adults: Risks of high neuroticism

Rebecca E. Ready*, Anna M. Åkerstedt, Daniel K. Mroczek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Older and midlife adults tend to report greater emotional complexity and greater emotional well-being than younger adults but there is variability in these factors across the lifespan. This study determined how the personality trait of neuroticism at baseline predicts emotional complexity and emotional well-being 10 years later; a goal was to determine if neuroticism is a stronger predictor of these emotion outcomes with increasing age in adulthood. Data were obtained from two waves of the MIDUS projects (N=1503; aged 34-84). Greater neuroticism predicted less emotional complexity as indicated by associations between positive and negative affect, particularly for older participants. Neuroticism predicted lower emotional well-being and this association was stronger for older and midlife than for younger adults. Overall, high neuroticism may be a greater liability for poor emotion outcomes for older and perhaps for midlife adults than for younger persons. Clinical and theoretical implications of this conclusion are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-26
Number of pages10
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012


  • age
  • emotional complexity
  • emotional well-being
  • negative affect
  • neuroticism
  • older adults
  • positive affect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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