Turner JR, Hill NL, Bhargava S, Madrigal C, Almeida DM, Mogle J. Age discrepancies across two decades: desiring to be younger is associated with daily negative affect over three waves of assessment. Prev Sci. 2023 Jul;24(5):901-10. doi: 10.1007/s11121-022-01386-0

Negative perceptions of aging and older adulthood, including the idealization of youth, are common in the United States. Past work has found that holding negative perceptions of aging is closely associated with poor mental and physical health consequences, yet few studies have examined how these perceptions impact day-to-day experiences. The current study had two objectives: (1) investigate whether age discrepancy (specifically desiring to be younger than one's chronological age) was related to daily negative affect and (2) examine whether this relationship changed as participants aged over time. We utilized the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) diary study, a longitudinal measurement burst study with three waves of 8-day daily diaries indexing approximately 20 years. Participants (N = 2398; Mage [baseline] = 46.85, SD = 12.24; 54.7% women; 92.4% White) reported their desired age as well as daily negative affect at each wave. Using multilevel modeling, we examined whether age discrepancy predicted daily negative affect across 3 waves of observation. Results supported a significant relationship between age discrepancy and daily negative affect. However, no interactions among age discrepancy and baseline age or time across study were found. This suggests that the relationship between age discrepancy and daily negative affect was consistent across waves and participants over a 20-year period and provides evidence for the pernicious effect of deidentifying with one's real age on daily life. Daily experiences can act as potential risk or protective factors and shape developmental trajectories. Reducing ageism through societal interventions or increasing personal acceptance of aging through targeted interventions are two potential pathways of promoting health and well-being across the lifespan.

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