Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 934–946 | Cite as

Maintenance of affective wellbeing following acute pain in healthy older and younger adults

  • Ian A. BoggeroEmail author
  • Suzanne C. Segerstrom


Over 70% of older adults report chronic or acute pain, and pain threatens affective wellbeing. The strategies older adults use to maintain affective wellbeing following acute pain remain unknown. Specific strategies that can be used to manage pain include recalling, recognizing, and responding to positive stimuli and prioritizing close over knowledgeable social partners. The study tested whether older adults used positivity-enhancing strategies and maintained affective wellbeing following acute pain better than younger adults. Fifty older (ages 65–85) and 50 younger (ages 18–30) pain-free adults experienced a control and a pain condition and were given the chance to employ positivity-enhancing strategies. Older and younger adults similarly used positivity-enhancing strategies following pain. Younger adults demonstrated reduced preference for knowledgeable social partners after experiencing pain. Pain-related affective changes were similar between age groups. Older and younger adults may cope with acute pain similarly, highlighting future directions for exploring age differences in pain coping.


Aging Cold-pressor Executive function Heart rate variability Socioemotional selectivity 



This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (Grant Numbers F31AG048692, K02-033629) and the American Psychological Association (Dissertation Award). The authors would like to thank Charles Carlson for feedback on important aspects of study design and Lawrence Gottlob for assistance with analyzing and interpreting results from the cognitive tasks.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Ian A. Boggero and Suzanne C. Segerstrom declares no conflict of interests.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical PsychologyCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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