This study tested longitudinal associations between absolute levels of perceived partner responsiveness (PPR; how much people perceive that their romantic partners understand, care for, and appreciate them), daily negative affect reactivity and positive affect reactivity, and all-cause mortality in a sample of 1,208 adults for three waves of data collection spanning 20 years. We also tested whether longitudinal changes in PPR predicted mortality via affect reactivity.
Data were taken from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States. PPR was assessed at waves 1 and 2, affect reactivity to stressors was assessed by daily diary reports at wave 2, and mortality status was obtained at wave 3.
Mediation analyses revealed absolute levels of PPR at wave 1 predicted wave 3 mortality via wave 2 affective reactivity in the predicted direction, but this did not remain robust when statistically accounting for covariates (e.g., marital risk, neuroticism), β = .004, 95% confidence interval = −.03 to .04. However, wave 1–2 PPR change predicted negative affect (but not positive affect) reactivity to daily stressors at wave 2, which then predicted mortality risk a decade later (wave 3); these results held when adjusting for relevant demographic, health, and psychosocial covariates, β = −.04, 95% confidence interval = −.09 to −.002.
These findings are among the first to provide direct evidence of psychological mechanisms underlying the links between intimate relationships and mortality and have implications for research aiming to develop interventions that increase or maintain responsiveness in relationships over time.
From the Department of Psychology (Stanton), University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom; Department of Psychology (Selcuk), Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey; Department of Psychology (Farrell, Slatcher) and Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics (Farrell), Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan; Department of Human Development (Ong), Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; and Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine (Ong), Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York.
Address correspondence to Sarah C.E. Stanton, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, United Kingdom. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or to Emre Selcuk, PhD, Middle East Technical University, B45 Human Sciences Bldg, Ankara 06800, Turkey. E-mail: email@example.com
Received for publication October 17, 2017; revision received May 25, 2018.