Normative Age-Related Individual Differences in Executive Functioning and its Impact on Quality of Life and Mood in Aging Couples
MetadataShow full item record
With the aging of society and increased longevity, understanding the factors that contribute to declines in quality of life and mood, such as normative health declines and cognitive declines is progressively more important. Past research has consistently demonstrated that cognitive skills decline with age; specifically, a major change associated with normative aging is a decline in executive functions (Phillips & Henry, 2008). Past research has focused on investigating how abnormal declines in cognitive and executive functioning have impacted the self and others; however a relatively unexplored issue is examining how individual differences in normative age-related changes in cognitive functioning impact the self and others. The first purpose of the current study was to investigate normative age-related differences in executive functioning skills and how these individual differences impact individuals and their marital partners. The second purpose of the current study was to investigate whether executive functioning skills in particular, rather than other domains of cognitive skills thought to be separate from executive functioning, predicted poor quality of life and mood in self and partner. Participants were 91 heterosexual couples 55 years and above who were married or cohabiting. They completed measures of quality of life and mood in addition to a variety of cognitive tasks and executive functioning tasks measuring their inhibition, working memory and task switching abilities. We found that lower executive functioning skills in one partner significantly predicted lower levels of quality of life in the other partner (partner effect). However, we found that there was no significant relationship between those with lower levels of executive functioning and one’s own ratings of quality of life (actor effect). Conversely, when investigating the impact of executive functioning on mood we found that lower levels of executive functioning resulted in lower ratings of mood for the same partner (actor effect). However, lower levels of executive functioning in one partner did not predict lower levels of mood in the other partner (partner effect). In no instance was general cognition, as assessed using tasks of language, visuospatial ability, and short-term memory, related to partner or actor effects for either outcome measure. Implications of these findings are discussed.