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Age differences in using humor to cope during a pandemic

  • Anthony Villalba

    Anthony Villalba is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at The University of Akron. He earned his Master’s Degree in Adult Development and Aging at The University of Akron and studies social and emotional aging. His current focus is on the topic of humor and aging with an emphasis on age differences in humor appreciation for his dissertation work.

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    , Jennifer Tehan Stanley

    Jennifer Tehan Stanley is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at The University of Akron. She earned her PhD in Experimental Psychology with a focus in Cognitive Aging in 2008 from Georgia Institute of Technology. She studies social and emotional aging and directs the Emotions and Aging Lab.

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    , Michael T. Vale

    Dr. Michael T. Vale graduated from the Adult Development and Aging PhD program at the University of Akron in 2021 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Sacred Heart University. Dr. Vale enjoys mentoring and working with students in the Sexuality, Minoritized Identities, and Lifespan Experiences (SMILES) Lab. The focus of Dr. Vale’s research centers on understanding how stigma (and i.e., benevolent ageism, minority stress) predicts psychological well-being, social-relationships, and health how these associations are contextualized by ones lived experiences and contextual factors (i.e., cohort, minority status, sexual identity).

    , Jennifer R. Turner

    Jennifer R. Turner is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UH Hilo). She earned her Ph.D. in Adult Development and Aging from the University of Akron in 2020. Her primary research interests are social and emotional development in later life, including differences in well-being and nostalgia with age, and she supervises the developmental lab at UH Hilo.

    and Michelle Houston

    Michelle Houston is a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at The University of Akron. Her research focus is on creativity and normative cognitive aging in older adulthood.

From the journal HUMOR

Abstract

Using humor can be beneficial for coping with stress. Humor can elicit positive emotions, which can bolster cognitive, social, and physical resources. Individuals who use humor to cope with negative affect report more positive well-being. However, it is less clear whether there are age differences in using humor to cope with an acute stressful event (e.g., the COVID-19 pandemic). We investigated whether using humor to cope with the pandemic related to lower levels of state anxiety. We further investigated age differences in using humor to cope and whether pandemic-related humor engagement reduced state anxiety levels. We surveyed 163 young adults (18–30 years) and 171 older adults (60–80 years) online during the initial months of the pandemic in the United States. Using humor to cope was negatively associated with state anxiety levels, but engagement with pandemic-related humor showed no relationship with anxiety. Using humor to cope was especially beneficial for older adults. One explanation may be that the positive emotions experienced through humor may beget a broader scope of fundamental resources needed to cope with anxiety during the pandemic. It may be that using humor to cope is a particularly efficacious coping strategy for older adults.


Corresponding author: Anthony Villalba, University of Akron, Akron, USA, E-mail:

About the authors

Anthony Villalba

Anthony Villalba is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at The University of Akron. He earned his Master’s Degree in Adult Development and Aging at The University of Akron and studies social and emotional aging. His current focus is on the topic of humor and aging with an emphasis on age differences in humor appreciation for his dissertation work.

Jennifer Tehan Stanley

Jennifer Tehan Stanley is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at The University of Akron. She earned her PhD in Experimental Psychology with a focus in Cognitive Aging in 2008 from Georgia Institute of Technology. She studies social and emotional aging and directs the Emotions and Aging Lab.

Michael T. Vale

Dr. Michael T. Vale graduated from the Adult Development and Aging PhD program at the University of Akron in 2021 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Sacred Heart University. Dr. Vale enjoys mentoring and working with students in the Sexuality, Minoritized Identities, and Lifespan Experiences (SMILES) Lab. The focus of Dr. Vale’s research centers on understanding how stigma (and i.e., benevolent ageism, minority stress) predicts psychological well-being, social-relationships, and health how these associations are contextualized by ones lived experiences and contextual factors (i.e., cohort, minority status, sexual identity).

Jennifer R. Turner

Jennifer R. Turner is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UH Hilo). She earned her Ph.D. in Adult Development and Aging from the University of Akron in 2020. Her primary research interests are social and emotional development in later life, including differences in well-being and nostalgia with age, and she supervises the developmental lab at UH Hilo.

Michelle Houston

Michelle Houston is a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at The University of Akron. Her research focus is on creativity and normative cognitive aging in older adulthood.

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Supplementary Material

This article contains supplementary material (https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2021-0137).


Received: 2021-03-22
Accepted: 2022-11-01
Published Online: 2023-02-07
Published in Print: 2023-02-23

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