Exploring the SEST theory: Positive affect as mediator in the association between bonding social capital and well-being in later life

M.E. Simons*, J.S.A.M. Reijnders, M. Janssens, J.J.E. Lataster, N.E. Jacobs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic

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Background: Bonding social capital (BoSC) was previously found as an important ingredient for positive aging and to be stronger related to mental well-being in an older population than bridging social capital (BrSC). Exploring the theoretical explanation based on the socio-emotional selectivity theory (SEST), will add to our knowledge about positive aging processes.

Aims: This study examines the assumption of the SEST, that in later life people prefer interaction with socioemotionally important others as they add to positive experiences in present time.
We have examined the hypotheses that (1) BoSC is stronger associated with well-being than BrSC in later life, and (2) this association is mediated by experiences of positive affect (PA).

Method: A sample of Dutch older adults (50+ years) filled out two online questionnaires, with an interval of four weeks, measuring BoSC and BrSC (PSCSE, Simons et al. 2019) and PA (PANAS, Watson et al.,1988) at T1 (n=319, Mage(SD)=61.28(7.65), Rangeage=50-93) and well-being (MHF-SF, Lamers et al. 2011) at T2 (n=202 Mage(SD)=61.31(7.47), Rangeage=50-93). Relevant (demographic) confounders were also measured.

Results: Regression analysis including BoSC(T1) and BrSC(T1) as predictors, as well as relevant covariates, found a significant positive association between BoSC and well-being(T2). Mediation analysis showed that this association was partly mediated by PA(T1). No association was found between BrSC and well-being(T2) or between BrSC and PA.

Conclusion: Our findings support the SEST and further illustrate the importance of bonding social capital in positive aging as a resource of opportunities to experience positive emotions, contributing to overall well-being in later life.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022
EventEuropean Conference of Positive Psychology, Reykjavik - Harpa, Reykjavic, Iceland
Duration: 28 Jun 20222 Jul 2022


ConferenceEuropean Conference of Positive Psychology, Reykjavik


  • bonding social capital
  • wellbeing
  • positive aging
  • socioemotional selectivity theory
  • positive affect


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