In an important contribution to emotion studies, a new finding indicates that older people have a heightened response to sadness which may reflect a greater compassion for other people and strengthen social bonds.
Researcher Robert Levenson of UC Berkeley thinks the heightened sadness response might be beneficial for maintaining and strengthening social ties. Sadness “is a very functional emotion” ,he says. “It’s an emotion that really brings people towards us and motivates them to help us.”
Earlier studies have reported that in day-to-day life, older people report experiencing more positive emotions than younger people. One explanation is that older people are more selective, so they may simply avoid sad situations more effectively that young people. It is also plausible that overall, a person can be very happy and at the same time have a strong sadness response.