The association between actor/partner optimism and cognitive functioning among older couples

Jeewon Oh, William J. Chopik, Eric S. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: Higher optimism has been linked with health, well-being, and cognitive functioning. Spouses also play an important role on people's health, especially in older adulthood. Yet, whether a spouse's optimism is associated with an individual's cognitive functioning is understudied. Thus, we examined this question. Method: Participants were 4,457 heterosexual couples (N = 8,914; Mage = 66.73, SD = 9.67) from the Health and Retirement Study—a large, diverse, prospective, and nationally representative sample of U.S. adults aged >50. Optimism was assessed at baseline (t1) and cognition was measured every two years with up to five repeated assessments of cognition data over the 8-year follow-up period (t1; t2; t3; t4; t5). Results: Results from multi-level dyadic data analyses showed small but positive associations between actor optimism and actor cognitive functioning (memory: r =.16, mental status =.10), as well as partner optimism and actor cognitive functioning (memory: r =.04, mental status =.03). These associations mostly persisted over time. Conclusions: Participants' own optimism and their partner's optimism were both positively associated with cognitive functioning.Thus, with further research, optimism (at both the individual and couple level) might emerge as an innovative intervention target that helps adults maintain cognitive functioning as they age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-832
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Health and Retirement Study
  • actor–partner interdependence model
  • cognitive functioning
  • optimism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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