Me, my hubby and pug Waffles at a beach near Santa Barbara.
On one of our morning walks, my husband told me about a continuing education class he was taking.
The topic had to do with age and happiness. It discussed at what age we are the happiest.
I wish I had the charts and info from his studies, but once he completed the course, the info disappeared into a great gulf of technology wasteland.
I googled the topic and found articles that follow what my husband told me. When we are children we are very happy. But what happens as we age?
Here’s what I found from Psychology Today:
Are people happier at age 20 than they will be at age 70?
This was the focus of a new study published in the journal Psychological Science. The research suggests the likely answer is “yes,” but with some important caveats.
“A pervasive concern among many people across the world is that growing older and reaching senior status means leaving their best days behind,” state the researchers. “However, a fair bit of longitudinal and cross-sectional research has shown that levels of happiness remain relatively stable across the life span. Using representative cross-sections from 166 nations (more than 1.7 million respondents), […] we found only very small differences in life satisfaction.”https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/social-instincts/202003/does-happiness-decline-age
My husband said he learned that our happiness goes down from childhood through stressful years of college, finding a career, entering our thirties and forties. That’s when we have pressures of paying bills, raising a family and all the hectic busyness that goes along with that phase.
As we leave that life behind, we don’t worry so much about keeping up with the Joneses, or worrying what people think of us. We’re more relaxed and look for happiness in personal relationships and in small things in our day-to-day lives.
By the time we hit 60, we have time to smell the roses, so to speak. The happiness declines slightly well into our 70s and 80s — maybe when things start to hurt physically and we may be more isolated.
Here’s an excerpt from 2015 in an article in Scientific American called “With Age Comes Happiness: Here’s Why” by Marta Zaraska:
- As people grow older, they tend to experience what psychologists call the age-related positivity effect—an increasing focus on positive events and happy feelings.
- In imaging studies, elders who concentrate on joy have strong activity in circuits linking the amygdala, involved in emotion, and decision-making regions of the medial prefrontal cortex. Eye-gaze studies show that the older people look longer at upbeat images and away from upsetting ones.
- Psychologists have found that when individuals of any age are reminded of life’s fragility, their priorities shift toward emotional goals such as feeling happy and seeking meaningful activities.
Of course these studies don’t take into account a lot of factors, like how stressful or chaotic our childhoods were or many of the hardships we may encounter on this journey called life. But I found it interesting.
What are your thoughts about age and happiness? Do you agree disagree that we are happiest in our childhood and then become happier again as get older?