Age differences in hedonic adaptation to societal restrictions? Positive and negative affect trajectories during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 33 nations.

Anne M. REITSEMA*, Bertus F. JERONIMUS, Elisabeth H. BOS, PsyCorona Study, Peter De JONGE, Pontus LEANDER, Wai Lan Victoria YEUNG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


We examined age group differences in hedonic adaptation trajectories of positive and negative affect (PA/NA) at different arousal levels during the severe societal restrictions that governments implemented to contain the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (March to June 2020). Data from 10,509 participants from 33 countries and 12 weekly assessments were used (67% women, aged 18 to 85 +, on average 318 participants per country (SD = 434) and 5.6 assessments (SD = 2.5) per participant). Multilevel models (level 1: assessments, level 2: participants, level 3: countries) were fit to examine trajectories of low to high arousal PA and NA during the phase of tightening societal restrictions, the phase of stable peak restrictions, and the phase of easing restrictions separately. During the entire study period mean levels of PA were lower in emerging and young adults (aged 18-44) than older adults, whereas mean NA levels were higher. During peak societal restrictions, participants reported increasingly more PA, especially high-arousal emotions (d = .36 per month vs. .19 unaroused). NA levels decreased over time, especially high-arousal emotions (d = .35 vs. .14 p/month). These hedonic adaptation trajectories were largely similar across age groups. Nevertheless, up to 30% of the participants increased in NA and up to 6% decreased in PA, against the general trend, demonstrating substantial individual differences in emotional adaptation. Finally, heterogeneity in the effects of time on affect was larger on the individual level than the country level. Emotional recovery trajectories during the first lockdown in the COVID-19 pandemic were virtually similar across age groups in 33 countries, across valence and arousal levels, suggesting age advantages in emotional well-being remain restricted to mean-level differences rather than emotion dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Early online date15 Sept 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Prof. Victoria Yeung is a member of PsyCorona Collaboration.

We thank all participants and collaborators of the PsyCorona study for their help in creating this unique dataset. This research received support from the New York University Abu Dhabi (VCDSF/75-71,015), the University of Groningen (Sustainable Society AND Ubbo Emmius Fund), the Instituto de Salud Carlos III (COV20/00086), and cofunded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF),“A Way to Make Europe. ”This study complies with ethical regulations for research on human subjects, as approved by the Ethics Committee of Psychology at the University of Groningen (Protocol PSY-1920-S-0390) and the Institutional Review Board at New York University Abu Dhabi (Protocol HRPP-202042).Bertus F. Jeronimus was supported by a NWO Veni Grant 016.195.405.


  • Covid-19
  • Lockdown
  • Resilience
  • Well-being


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