Many of us have the impression that old people are sad, depressed, and/or grumpy but it turns out not to be particularly accurate. A previous University of Warwick study showed that happiness levels follow a U-shaped curve, with the lowest point being in the mid-40s, after which people grew happier as they got older. The recent study, co-authored by Dr. Saverio Stranges and Dr. Kandala Ngianga-Bakwin, shows that this trend applies cross-culturally, and holds true for two countries with very different health care and welfare systems. “This could be due to better coping abilities,” said Dr. Stranges in a press release. “Older people tend to have internal mechanisms to deal better with hardship or negative circumstances than those who are younger.” An alternative to the life-experience theory is the possibility that older people are just more comfortable being themselves.
Some studies show that the elderly may be more prone to depression and loneliness, which can lead to higher rates of unhappiness, not a surprise given the health and emotional challenges that tend to accompany aging. But increasing, more and more studies suggest that happiness may actually rise after middle age — at least when scientists take into account some of the non-biological factors that can influence reports of contentment.
In a study, which was published in Psychological Science, researchers led by Angelina Sutin of Florida State University College of Medicine examined data from two large samples of people; one included nearly 2,300 primarily white and highly educated people with an average age of 69 living in a Baltimore community between 1979 and 2010. The second group included reports of well-being collected in the 1970s from a representative sample of some 3,000 adults from the U.S. population who were in their late 40s and 50s at the time of the study. Sutin and her colleagues were particularly interested in exploring whether differences in happiness reported by different generations — the middle-aged vs. the elderly, for example — were related to factors that have nothing to do with aging itself, but rather reflect life situations reflecting when they were born. Read More