• Luli Faber

When Feeling Bad Can Be Good: Mixed Emotions Benefit Physical Health Across Adulthood


I just found this scientific study that was published in 2013 by Hershfield et al, in the journal Social and Psychological Personality Science.

The study looked that the impact of experiencing both positive and negative emotions - which the authors call "mixed emotions" - on physical health. The study was longitudinal i.e. it was performed over a period of 10 years, on largely the same group of people, across all adult ages, and was based on self-report.

They found that the more people experienced mixed emotions, the less negative physical symptoms they experienced, lending support to the notion that suppressed emotions crease physical ailments.

This is the abstract of the paper:

Traditional models of emotion–health interactions have emphasized the deleterious effects of negative emotions on physical health. More recently, researchers have turned to potential benefits of positive emotions on physical health as well. Both lines of research, though, neglect the complex interplay between positive and negative emotions and how this interplay affects physical well-being. Indeed, recent theoretical work suggests that a strategy of “taking the good with the bad” may benefit health outcomes. In the present study, the authors assessed the impact of mixed emotional experiences on health outcomes in a 10-year longitudinal experience-sampling study across the adult life span. The authors found that not only were frequent experiences of mixed emotions (co-occurrences of positive and negative emotions) strongly associated with relatively good physical health, but that increases of mixed emotions over many years attenuated typical age-related health declines.

The findings are summarised in the paper's figure here:

And the whole manuscript can be downloaded here:

#positiveemotions #negativeemotions #physicalhealth