People Get Happier as They Get Older

March 8, 2012

What is there to be happy about by getting older? Lots, apparently.

At least according to a nationwide survey involving over 340,000 people between the ages of 18 and 85. Participants were asked a range of questions covering everything from their sex lives to health and finance, but the interesting part came when asked six simple yes-or-no questions: "Did you experience the following feelings during a large part of the day yesterday: enjoyment, happiness, stress, worry, anger, sadness?"

Notice the survey is only covering your emotional state yesterday, not last year, not as a child or during the college years, because they didn't want respondents to look back with gin-colored glasses. Now, think about the answer for yourself. What if you answer might depend as much on your age as it does on your circumstances? Each emotion, it turned out, had its own trend. And every single trend pointed toward happier 85-year-olds than 50-year-olds. For example:

  • Enjoyment and Happiness: Decreased every year until about age 50, then rose steadily until age 75.
  • Stress: Declined every year from age 22 and reached its absolute lowest at age 85.
  • Worry: Held steady between 18 and 50, then sharply dropped off.
  • Anger: Decreases every year from 18 on.
  • Sadness: Peaked at 50, hit its low point at 73.
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