Getting to the Heart of the Matter in Later Life: The Central Role of Affect in Health Message Framing

Joseph A. Mikels, Nathaniel A. Young, Xiaomei Liu, Elizabeth A.L. Stine-Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objectives: Adopting healthy behaviors is often influenced by message framing; gain-framed messages emphasize the benefits of engaging in a behavior, whereas loss-framed messages highlight the consequences of not engaging in a behavior. Research has begun to uncover the underlying affective pathways involved in message framing. In the current study, we examined the role of affect in message framing to encourage exercise program enrollment among older adults. Research Design and Methods: We mailed flyers to 126 volunteers assigned to a gain- or loss-framed condition and measured their affective reactions to the flyer and enrollment intentions. After the call, participants had the opportunity to contact us to enroll. Results: Gain versus loss framing led to more positive affect toward the flyer, which predicted intentions and enrollment effort. In indirect effect analyses, frame indirectly influenced intentions and enrollment effort via positive affect. Discussion and Implications: Although message framing plays an indirect role in influencing behavior, affect plays a central role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)756-762
Number of pages7
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


  • Aging
  • Decision making
  • Emotions
  • Health
  • Message framing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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