Everybody wants to be happy and we often assume that the younger you are the happier you are. But the truth seems to be that happiness increases with age.

happiness-curveIn the last couple of decades happiness has been studied by researchers across the world.The results are striking. Four variables seem to impact happiness: gender (women report greater life satisfaction than men); personality (extroverts are happiest and neurotics least happy); circumstances; and, surprisingly, age.

We enter adulthood relatively happy, but our happiness levels progressively decline until they hit their lowest point around 50. After that there is a steep rise right into old age. The pattern, diagrammed for the US,  has been tested across more than 70 countries and a host of variable. It holds true regardless of wealth, employment status, children, or country.

Of course, we are talking about a fairly narrow range. The difference between reported sense of psychological well being in our diagram shows 50-53 year olds average 6.3 out of 10, while 80 year olds are just under 7 out of 10. So the variation is less than 10%.

There are multiple interpretations as to why the pattern exists, but given I turn 50 this year, it’s a most encouraging result. Looks like the only way is up!


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