Positive reappraisal in older adults: a systematic literature review

Jamie S. Nowlan, Viviana M. Wuthrich*, Ronald M. Rapee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Positive reappraisal is a meaning-based cognitive emotion regulation strategy that is frequently used by older adults to deal with stressors. The strategy involves finding personally relevant positive meaning from an experience in the face of its negative reality. As positive reappraisal has not been previously systematically examined and appears to be particularly relevant to older adults, this paper reviews the research on positive reappraisal in older adult populations.Method: Database searches identified 302 studies, of which 22 addressed positive reappraisal in older adult samples. The findings were categorised into four core themes: use and value for older adults, effects on mental health, benefit for physical illness, and influence of cognitive functioning and gender.Results: The literature indicates that positive reappraisal is an adaptive coping strategy for older adults with wide-ranging benefits. Specifically, positive reappraisal appears to be related to improved mental health for older adults, and particularly in the context of physical illness.Conclusion: Helping older adults find meaning in their negative experiences appears to be a worthwhile research area to pursue. Questions for future research on positive reappraisal in older adulthood are proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-484
Number of pages10
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2015


  • positive reappraisal
  • coping
  • older adult
  • emotion regulation
  • cognitive reappraisal


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