On the global measure, people start out at age 18 feeling pretty good about themselves, and then, apparently, life begins to throw curve balls. They feel worse and worse until they hit 50. At that point, there is a sharp reversal, and people keep getting happier as they age. By the time they are 85, they are even more satisfied with themselves than they were at 18.
In measuring immediate well-being — yesterday’s emotional state — the researchers found that stress declines from age 22 onward, reaching its lowest point at 85. Worry stays fairly steady until 50, then sharply drops off. Anger decreases steadily from 18 on, and sadness rises to a peak at 50, declines to 73, then rises slightly again to 85. Enjoyment and happiness have similar curves: they both decrease gradually until we hit 50, rise steadily for the next 25 years, and then decline very slightly at the end, but they never again reach the low point of our early 50s.
...we can expect to be happier in our early 80s than we were in our 20s...and it’s not being driven predominantly by things that happen in life. It’s something very deep and quite human that seems to be driving this.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Older is happier
Many diminutions come with aging, but decreasing happiness is not apparently among them. Bakalar notes studies by Stone et al. showing, to the contrary, that by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older, for reasons that are not clear. Clips from Bakalar's summary: