Objectives: Self-reported emotional well-being tends to increase with age (Charles & Carstensen, Annual Review of Psychology , 61 , 383-409 , 2010), and this has remained true during the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g . Bruine de Bruin, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B , 76 (2), e24-e29 , 2021) despite older adults being disproportionately affected by the virus (CDC, Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Older adults , 2020). This study aimed to investigate how younger and older adults are regulating their emotions during the current pandemic . Specifically, this study measured potential age differences in acceptance (broken down into situational and emotional acceptance), because it has been identified as a possible underlying mechanism of the relationship between aging and reduced negative affect (Shallcross et al., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 104 (4), 734-749 , 2013).
Methods: Younger (N = 150) and older (N = 150) adults completed trait-level questionnaires of emotional and situational acceptance, and completed a task where they reacted to 24 negative, arousing COVID-19 news headlines, half of which were old-age focused, to capture trial-level acceptance use .
Results: Older adults reported greater trait-level acceptance and used emotional acceptance more frequently than younger adults during the headlines task, especially on trials containing old-age focused headlines . Interestingly, younger adults reported reduced trial-level subjective arousal when engaging in emotional acceptance compared to active emotion regulation (suggesting beneficial affective outcomes of acceptance), while older adults reported no differences in arousal between trials when they engaged in acceptance and when they engaged in more active emotion regulation . Conclusion: We discuss potential explanations for these findings as well as present future research directions on acceptance across the lifespan.