Positivity and well-being among community-residing elders and nursing home residents: What is the optimal affect balance?

Suzanne Meeks, Kimberly Van Haitsma, Irene Kostiwa, Stanley A. Murrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objectives: To explore whether a ratio of positive to negative affect, from the work of Fredricksen and Losada, could predict high levels of well-being in elderly samples and especially in nursing home residents despite multiple chronic health conditions, consonant with Ryff and Singer's notion of "flourishing under fire." Method: We used two samples: a probability sample of community-residing elders and a sample from nursing homes. We calculated ratios of positive to negative affect in each sample and measured well-being with social interaction, mental health, life satisfaction, and general well-being. Results: The positivity ratio of 2.9 differentiated high levels of well-being in both the samples, as in previous research on younger samples. Discussion: Although we expected the positivity ratio to perform less well among nursing home residents, we found that it differentiated residents with high well-being just as well as in the community sample. The ability to regulate positive affect to maintain a relative ratio of positive over negative affect appears to be an important aspect of successful adjustment in late life. Further research is needed on objective indicators of quality of life and on whether intra-individual shifts in affect balance are coupled with shifts in indicators of positive mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-467
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume67 B
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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