Positive Affect Is Associated With Less Memory Decline: Evidence From a 9-Year Longitudinal Study

Emily F. Hittner, Jacquelyn E. Stephens, Nicholas A. Turiano, Denis Gerstorf, Margie E. Lachman, Claudia M. Haase*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Memory decline is a concern for aging populations across the globe. Positive affect plays an important role in healthy aging, but its link with memory decline has remained unclear. In the present study, we examined associations between positive affect (i.e., feeling enthusiastic, attentive, proud, active) and memory (i.e., immediate and delayed recall), drawing from a 9-year longitudinal study of a national sample of 991 middle-age and older U.S. adults. Results revealed that positive affect was associated with less memory decline across 9 years when analyses controlled for age, gender, education, depression, negative affect, and extraversion. Findings generalized across another measure that assessed additional facets of positive affect, across different (but not all) facets of positive affect and memory, and across age, gender, and education; findings did not emerge for negative affect. Reverse longitudinal associations between memory and positive affect were not significant. Possible pathways linking positive affect and memory functioning are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1386-1395
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Midlife in the United States (MIDUS)
  • cognitive aging
  • memory
  • open data
  • positive affect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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