New data on age and well-being suggests, despite conflicting conclusions reached by past studies, that happiness does generally increase as we get older. “The new study, published online January 24 in Psychological Science, teased out the answer by examining 30 years of data on thousands of Americans, including psychological measures of mood and well-being, reports of job and relationship success, and objective measures of health.” Previous studies which have compared older individuals with middle-age and younger generations have not generally differentiated between discontent caused by aging and that caused by life experience.
What’s the Big Idea?
The generation born into the Great Depression experienced a greater increase in happiness than other generations because it began so low on the happiness index, but because of their initial hardships, their overall happiness was not as high as subsequent generations (whose lot did not improve as much). Previous results have therefore suggested that some older generations, such as that of the Great Depression, did not grow happier with age because their overall rating on the happiness index was relatively low. In the new study, however, researchers controlled for variables such as health, wealth, gender, ethnicity and education, and still found that well-being increases over everyone’s lifetime.