Happiness Begins at Age 46
It is a mathematical fact, we are most content when we hit the magic age of 74! To sum it up, “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” says Maurice Chevalier. And here are a few reasons why. Fewer responsibilities, fewer financial worries and more free time to do what you love all contribute to our happiness levels.
In a nutshell, the researchers have found that happiness starts to decline in the teenage years and continues on a downward spiral until the age of 40. It then levels off until about the age of 46, before rising to a peak more than 30 years later. When mapped out, it appears that our happiness levels swing like the letter U’. In an article recently published by The Economist, “The U-Bend of Life: Why, beyond middle age, people get happier as they get older” , the numbers are in and revealed.
Conventional economics focused on wealth and how it contributes to satisfaction in life. However, there is a change in the air, and it is looking at the concept of measuring Gross National Happiness. Countries are beginning to assess the GNH and how it impacts new policies and the planning process. Study after study confirms, as we get older, we get better at keeping our negative emotions in check. People in their twenties and thirties are just starting out, facing the stresses of settling into a career, buying a home and starting a family. On the other hand, by the age of 46 we have most of those difficult decisions behind us and are free to start enjoying ourselves.
So what makes people happy? According to the article, there are certain factors that stand out: gender, personality, external circumstances and age.
Simply put, women are on the whole slightly happier than the men. Interesting to note that women are more likely to suffer from depression than men, however, they are still happier.
Two personality traits top the studies: neuroticism and extroversion. You got it, those who tend to be neurotic (people who are more likely to feel guilty, angry and have anxiety) also tend to be unhappy. Neurotics are prone to negative feelings and low emotional intelligence making it difficult for them to manage relationships, which, in turn, makes them lonely and unhappy.
Just the opposite is the case for extroverts. Those who like working in teams and who like going to parties tend to be happier. They manage personal relationships well, and this significantly increases a person’s chances of overall success and happiness.
There are many different external circumstances which shape the way people feel. Some include education, income, health and relationships. Where higher education contributes to more income, those people tend to be happier. Married couples are considerably happier than singles. People with children in the house are less happy than those without (stress related), and finally, richer people are happier then poor ones.
This is where things all come together. A bunch of 30-year-olds and another bunch of 70-year-olds were asked which group they thought was likely to be happier – both groups answered that they thought the 30-year-olds were happier. Then they were asked to rate their own happiness and well-being, and the 70-year-olds were the happier bunch. Interesting.
There are many variables that contribute to our happiness – but it certainly appears to be true that the older we get, the better we get at solving problems, accepting misfortune and we are less prone to anger. The older we get, the more determined we are to make the most of our remaining years. It is believed that ‘acceptance of ageing itself is a source of relief.’ In the end, literally, happier people are healthier, more productive and live longer.