The Structure of Self-Regulation and Its Psychological and Physical Health Correlates in Older Adults

Rebecca G Reed, Hannah L Combs, Suzanne C Segerstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Self-regulation refers to effortful control over one's thoughts, emotions, choices, impulses, and behaviors, and has implications for older adults' health. Executive function, physiological, and subjective indices have all been proposed to reflect self-regulation. Pairwise associations among these indices have been previously examined; however, a self-regulation constellation encompassing all of these indices has never been tested in older adults. The present study described the relationships among indices of self-regulation and tested their between- and within-person associations with upstream personality factors (conscientiousness) and downstream psychological and physical health in 149 older adults aged 60-93 years, assessed semi-annually for five years (up to 10 waves). Indices of self-regulation were only modestly correlated with each other but were each associated with health. Better executive function was associated with better psychological and physical health between and within people, whereas higher heart rate variability was associated with psychological health within people. Better subjective self-regulation had the most between- and within-person associations with better psychological and physical health. Conscientiousness was associated with subjective self-regulation and better psychological and physical health. These findings support the non-unitary nature of self-regulation in older adults and the health relevance of each of its indices between and within older adults. The aging process may change how the indices relate to each other, and older adults may draw more on certain self-regulatory components over others, given limited resources. Subjective self-regulation may be an important final common pathway to psychological and physical health in older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCollabra. Psychology
Volume6
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

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