We've heard of getting older and wiser, but getting older and happier? Logical thinking would lead us to believe that our happiness levels might decline as we age, but recent studies prove otherwise. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by Author A. Stone of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University in New York. Stone et al. report on psychological well-being, a comprised of a person's assessment of his or her life and affective state (global and hedonic well-being, respectively).
In a telephone survey of over 340,000 U.S. residents, researchers found that well-being generally increases after the age of 50. Also interesting to note is that stress and anger sharply decrease after the early 20s, and worry remains elevated through middle age and then begins to decline. Findings held true even after other variables were accounted for, such as whether or not participants were married or had children. Both men and women showed similar patterns of well-being as they age.
The results of the study aren't comprehensive, however. Hedonic well-being is a measure comprised of many different facets, such as worry, sadness, stress, anger, and enjoyment. It's clear from this study that those individual components show different patterns as people age, so further research would be necessary to conclude more specific measurements of hedonic well-being.
An article on LiveScience.com discusses the study, addressing potential causes for this correlation between aging and happiness. Since lifestyle variables like children and marriage were accounted for, it's clear that they're not behind a rise in happiness as we age. It's possible that we become better at controlling our emotions as we get older, or that we simply remember less negative memories and events as we age. According to Stone, people age 50 and over might simply start focusing on making the most out of the rest of their lives, and less on their accomplishments.
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