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Did negative emotions from youth follow you into senior years to affect health?

Negative emotions people may have suffered as young adults can have a lasting grip on their couple relationships, well into middle age. How do you decode the recipe for happiness? Early depression, anger may taint love life even 20 years later, a new study shows. A University of Alberta study, "Depression and anger across 25 years: Changing vulnerabilities in the VSA model," published in the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Family Psychology, is helping to decipher the code to happiness by exploring the long reach of depression and anger over more than two decades. When it comes to decoding, one doesn't 'crack' the code, because cracking is criminal. One decodes or one deciphers, or if the code is technical, one back-engineers the code to understand whether the sum of its parts is equal to its whole entity. After all, depression is internalized anger. But do the same negative thoughts and emotions last a lifetime?

Did negative emotions from youth follow you into senior years to affect health?
Anne Hart, illustration and photography.

In the case of the new study, researchers followed 341 people for 25 years, and found that negative emotions they may have suffered as young adults can have a lasting grip on their couple relationships, well into middle age

The fact that depression and anger experienced during the teen years clung to people, even through major life events such as child-rearing, marriages and careers was surprising, said University of Alberta researcher Matthew Johnson, according to the May 7, 2014 news release, Early depression, anger may taint love life even 20 years later, study shows. "We assume or hope that high school experiences fade away and don't necessarily resonate 25 years later. The fact that symptoms of depression and expressions of anger can endure over many large events in life shows how important it is to deal with mental health early. Sometimes, problems don't just dissipate. How you grow and change over those early years becomes crucial to future happiness," said Johnson, an assistant professor of human ecology in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences. What happens when anger, negative emotions, or depression (internalized anger) are followed by researchers over a period of at least 25 years?

The research, drawn from a larger study begun in 1985, surveyed 178 women and 163 men through their transition to adulthood from age 18 to 25, again on their perceived stress levels at age 32, and on the quality of their intimate relationships at age 43, to find out whether anger or depression they may have felt as young adults was still affecting those bonds.

Findings point to the importance of recognizing that early mental health does influence couple relationships and that in turn, can have social costs later on, such as divorce and domestic violence.

As individuals, people can help themselves by "recognizing the fact that where they are in their couple relationship now is likely shaped by earlier chapters in their lives," Johnson added. "It's not only your partner's current behavior or your current behavior shaping your relationship, but the story you bring with you." There's also an older study by different researchers, "Early childhood adversity and adolescent depression: the mediating role of continued stress."

A Mother's Day study on how and why we should celebrate that day

Also you may wish to check out the abstract of still another study, "How (and why) we should celebrate Mother's Day." That research asks how can experience feel slow on one timescale, yet fast on another? And is there something about raising children that generates or exaggerates the mismatch? A lot of people aren't happy with research suggesting that time appears to accelerate the older we get. Then again, for some older people with little contact from other people not contacted much by children or for those afraid of their own children, (not in the study) time seems to stand still, except as etched on one's face, hair, and energy or gait.

My how time seems to fly by when you're older

You can check out the abstract of another study, "Assessment of time perception: The effect of aging," about how fast time seems to fly by when you're older, especially when each day seems a lot like the day before, as in the movie, (not mentioned in the study) "Ground Hog Day." But, unlike that movie, in the study's abstract, researchers found that studies concerning time perception lack a validated assessment tool and a consensual “gold-standard” measure.

If you look at whatever research that exists on how time flies by as you get older, the present evidence suggests modification of timing with aging. In the study of time perception, the research aimed to develop and validate a neuropsychological tool to measure time perception and to study temporal perception with aging.

Eighty-six healthy participants, aged 15–90 years old, were asked to verbally estimate and produce empty intervals signaled by auditory beeps, of 7-, 32-, and 58-seconds duration. Two tests were used as “gold-standards”: estimation of the duration of time necessary to draw a clock (“clock time”) and estimation of the duration of neuropsychological evaluation (“global time”).

Results showed a correlation between estimation and production and a correlation between estimation or production and “global time”. The correlation between either estimation or production and age, suggested a faster “internal-clock” in the older participants. However, this finding lost significance when controlled for literacy.

The results suggest that these tests are potentially a useful tool to measure subjective perception of time. They also corroborate the hypothesis of a change in subjective time perception with aging. It was not possible to conclude if this effect was a specific result of aging or biased by the interference of literacy, the study's abstract explained. On another note, when you're waiting your turn for a medical or dental procedure that you're not looking forward to, and you experience time flying by, or you're waiting for it to end, that's one happy note if you're an older adult, because soon as it's over, there's the thought of the good times ahead.

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