A Gallup poll has found that people get happier as they get older, and researchers are not sure why.
“It could be that there are environmental changes,” said Arthur Stone, the lead author of a new study based on the survey, “or it could be psychological changes about the way we view the world, or it could even be biological – for example brain chemistry or endocrine changes.”
The telephone survey, carried out in 2008, covered more than 340,000 people in the USA, ages 18 to 85, asking various questions about age and sex, current events, personal finances, health and other matters.
The researchers found that people start out at age 18 feeling pretty good about themselves, and then, apparently, life begins to throw curve balls. They feel worse and worse until they hit 50. At that point, there is a sharp reversal, and people keep getting happier as they age. By the time they are 85, they are even more satisfied with themselves than they were at 18.
The researchers also found that stress declines from age 22 onward, reaching its lowest point at 85.
Worry stays fairly steady until 50, then sharply drops off.
Anger decreases steadily from 18 on, and sadness rises to a peak at 50, declines to 73, then rises slightly again to 85.
Enjoyment and happiness have similar curves: they both decrease gradually until we hit 50, rise steadily for the next 25 years, and then decline very slightly at the end, but they never again reach the low point of our early 50s.
These findings mean good news for oldies, and for those who are getting old!