Variations in Daily Cognitive Affective States as a Function of Variations in Daily Generative Activity

Abstract

Greater perceived and actual generative, or contributory, engagement predicts more favorable psychosocial and physical well-being with advancing age. Although theoretical formulations of prosocial behavior suggest self-enhancement, social connectedness, and positive emotion pathways might underlie such links, empirical examination of these connections remains limited. These associations were examined using data from the National Study of Daily Experiences (n = 1747) in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States. Multilevel regression models examined person-level and day-level indicators of three forms of generative activity (volunteering, emotional support, informal help) as predictors of daily self-enhancement, social connectedness, and positive affect states over an 8-day period, controlling for sociodemographic factors. At the daily level, both volunteering and giving informal help were found to be associated with greater feelings of self-enhancement and social connectedness. Though the between-person effects of informal help were not significant, individuals who volunteered more, on average, also experienced greater average feelings of positive affect and social connectedness than those who volunteered less or not at all. In contrast, giving emotional support to others was associated with slightly lower levels of these cognitive–affective correlates on a given day, and on average. Observed daily cognitive–affective correlates of different generative activities suggest potential pathways through which such activities may be linked to well-being over time.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Institutes on Aging Multidisciplinary Training Grant (T32 AG000037) and the USC Provost’s Graduate Student Fellowship. We would also like to thank the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development, which funded the MIDUS Study.

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Correspondence to Molli R. Grossman.

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Grossman, M.R., Wang, D. & Gruenewald, T.L. Variations in Daily Cognitive Affective States as a Function of Variations in Daily Generative Activity. J Happiness Stud 20, 19–34 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9935-1

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Keywords

  • Volunteering
  • Psychological well-being
  • Activities, contribution, civic engagement