Christiane Hoppmann

Professor

Research Classification

Research Interests

Aging Process
Social Aspects of Aging
stress
Health Promotion
social determinants of health
Health and well-being across the adult lifespan and into old age
individual differences in goals

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
Dyadic interrelations in emotional experiences among older spouses: associations with concurrent and longer-term changes in health (2021)

While links between emotional experiences and health are well-established, extant research is largely based on individuals and cross-sectional data, which is limiting given that emotional experiences are dynamic and interpersonal. In older age, emotional experiences are often maintained or improved relative to earlier life phases, due to adaptive emotion regulation strategies and motivational shifts in priorities. This dissertation aimed to identify socio-emotional pathways underlying health with aging, by taking both spousal perceptions and multiple time-scales into account. This research primarily used data from up to 119 older adult couples, who simultaneously completed 28 momentary assessments of affect and salivary cortisol over a 7-day period, and annual assessments of cardiovascular risk and environmental mastery over three years. Simultaneous assessments in daily life facilitated investigating emotion dynamics in a social context, and were further linked with processes that unfold over different timescales. Study 1 focused on the role of intraindividual affect variability in facilitating empathic accuracy. Older adults more accurately perceived the happiness of their spouse if they themselves were more variable in their happiness, whereas affect variability was unrelated to being read well. Findings replicated in a similar data set of older adult couples. Study 2 examined dyadic covariation in affect and the stress hormone cortisol to illuminate how emotional experiences ‘get under the skin’ in everyday settings. Changes in one’s own affect corresponded with changes in one’s own salivary cortisol. Changes in one’s partner’s affect were only associated with own salivary cortisol if the partner was perceived as having shared their feelings more than usual. Study 3 linked spousal fluctuations in affect with longitudinal physical and mental health indicators. Individual and spousal affect variability were negatively associated with concurrent and long-term health, as indicated by elevated pulse pressure for men and low environmental mastery for women. Spouses sharing their feelings was generally beneficial for health. Taken together, this dissertation identifies key social dynamics in emotional experiences that shape health in older adult couples, pointing to the double-edged nature of spousal interrelations in emotional experiences for levels and changes in health in older adulthood.

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Cortisol synchrony in older couples: links with differential contexts, individual characteristics, and long-term outcomes (2020)

For a lot of older adults, the relationship with a significant other is a fundamental social context that structures their daily life and interactions. This research program investigated everyday interpersonal physiological dynamics that may contribute to intertwined health trajectories in old age. In particular, it focused on interconnected fluctuations of the stress hormone cortisol (cortisol synchrony) because dysregulated cortisol secretion has been linked with significant health risks. It utilized three samples of older adult couples (N = 322 couples), who provided multiple salivary cortisol samples and concurrent electronic assessments for a 7-day period, as they went about their daily lives. Study 1 aimed to illuminate daily life situations (proximal contexts) and pertinent individual differences that may be associated with more pronounced cortisol synchrony in older couples. Cortisol synchrony was higher in moments when the partner was present and when individuals reported prior positive socio-emotional partner interactions. Furthermore, greater self-reported perspective taking tended to be linked with greater cortisol synchrony. Building on these findings, Study 2 aimed to better understand long-term risks and benefits of being ‘in sync’. Among wives, higher cortisol synchrony was associated with a stronger increase in relationship satisfaction but also a stronger increase in cardiovascular risk over time, as indexed by non-high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. For husbands, higher cortisol synchrony was not significantly associated with changes in relationship satisfaction or non-HDL cholesterol levels over time, but it was linked with higher initial non-HDL cholesterol levels. Study 3 adopted a macro perspective, taking a step back to examine broader socio-political correlates of cortisol synchrony in older couples. The extent of cortisol synchrony was moderated by macro-context, such that couples living in a German federal state that was placed further right on the left-right political ideological spectrum exhibited greater cortisol synchrony. This line of research emphasizes that older romantic partners are deeply intertwined in daily processes relevant for health. It unpacks key proximal and distal correlates of everyday cortisol synchrony, identifies individual differences relevant to such dynamics, and points to potential adaptive and maladaptive long-term implications of cortisol synchrony for relationship functioning and health.

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Alone but not lonely? distinct types, antecedents, and correlates of older and younger adults' daily life solitude experiences in two cultural contexts (2018)

Solitude (the absence of social interaction, whether in-person or electronic) is a ubiquitous yet understudied experience, often confused with loneliness, but sometimes sought out in daily life. This research program aimed to better understand the negative and positive aspects of solitude, drawing on data from three samples: 50 university students in Vancouver, 100 community-dwelling adults aged 50+ in Vancouver (including 51% East Asian immigrants), and 56 community-dwelling adults aged 50+ in Hong Kong. Participants completed approximately 30 repeated daily life assessments over 10 days on their current thoughts, affect, location, activities, social situation, and desire for solitude. Study 1 used latent profile analysis to identify distinct types of solitude experiences from the everyday thought-affect patterns of younger and middle-aged/older adults in Vancouver, and examined for whom and under what circumstances solitude may have positive or negative connotations. Two distinct types of solitude experiences were identified. Overall desire for solitude and social self-efficacy were associated with positive solitude experiences, and self-rumination and self-reflection with negative solitude experiences. Study 2 specifically examined solitude desire and its location and affective correlates among middle-aged and older adults living in Vancouver. At most occasions, solitude happened by individuals’ own choosing. Older adults were more likely to go to locations that matched their desired social context, and solitude-seeking had less negative affective associations for them as compared to middle-aged adults. East/Southeast Asian participants reported more loneliness than European/North American participants. Study 3 combined two data sets, from Vancouver and Hong Kong, to disentangle the roles of culture, immigration, and acculturation on solitude-loneliness associations among adults aged 50+. Participants high in acculturation to the local (host) culture or who desired solitude at that moment showed no association between being in solitude and feeling lonely. Taken together, these studies show that solitude and loneliness are distinct constructs with different predictors, correlates, and consequences. This research identified key individual difference, life phase, and social contextual factors associated with seeking solitude and thriving during solitude.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Associations between perceived support in older adult marriages and dyadic covariations in momentary affect and aches (2015)

Spousal support within marriage may be particularly important in old age when spouses become more likely to rely on each other’s help. However, spousal support does not have to be unanimously positive. In fact, very little is known about co-variations in spousal affect and aches as couples engage in their daily routines and environments. Up to 27 simultaneous, momentary assessments from 49 older adult married couples (M age = 72 years (60-83); M relationship duration = 42 years) were used taking into account the perspective of both partners. This research shows that social support within marriage was associated with reduced overall levels of negative affect but unrelated to positive affect. Interestingly, high spousal support was both associated with reduced overall negative affect means but also with an increased co-variation in negative affect between partners. No similar co-variations were observed for aches and positive affect. Spousal support may be a double-edged sword; it is associated with reduced overall negative affect, but it may also lead to more permeable boundaries between spouses that seem to be specific to negative affect.

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Individual and Spousal Neuroticsm are Differentially Associated with Daily Affect Quality and Physical Symptoms in Old Age (2014)

Objective: Marriage partners exert a special influence on each other’s health and wellbeing, potentially even more so in old age, when social networks shrink and spouses become ever more important resources for dealing with everyday problems. This study complements and extends past research by examining associations between older spouses’ levels of neuroticism, a key trait tied to wellbeing and health, and everyday fluctuations in affect quality, physical symptoms, and responses to everyday problems. Methods: Forty-nine wives and 49 husbands aged 60-83 years (M marriage duration = 42.5 years) first provided independent neuroticism self-report ratings. Spouses then completed up to 27 repeated daily life assessments (time-sampling), during which they simultaneously reported their affect quality, physical health symptoms, and everyday problems 3 times daily for 9 consecutive days on handheld computers. Results: Hierarchical linear modelling results replicate past work by showing negative associations between individual neuroticism and overall affect quality and physical symptoms. Interestingly, spousal neuroticism, in contrast, was positively associated with affect quality and physical symptoms, but only when problems were present. Specifically, having a spouse higher in neuroticism was associated with more favorable problem-affect quality associations and problem-physical symptom associations, even when controlling for marital satisfaction, age, gender, and level of conscientiousness.Conclusions: Findings are discussed in the context of the evolutionary psychology literature and may suggest that spousal neuroticism can serve adaptive functions by increasing vigilance and preparing older couples to deal with everyday problems.

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On the adaptive potential of negative emotions: exploring the role of sadness and anger for goal regulation (2012)

Negative emotions may be an outcome of goal progress. Importantly, negative emotions may also serve as guideposts for subsequent goal regulation by flagging which goals to pursue and which goals to let go. The authors examined this hypothesis using 10-day time-sampling information from 186 adults aged 20-81 years. In line with past work, young adults progressed less on their goals and experienced more negative emotions (anger, sadness) than older adults. Importantly, daily sadness and anger seem to serve different regulatory functions. Specifically, daily sadness was associated with subsequent increases in goal contemplation and end-of-study goal disengagement and goal reengagement whereas anger was not. Findings extend previous research by pointing to the adaptive potential of negative emotions for goal regulation across the adult lifespan.

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