Does life start at…. 46???

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Does life start at…. 46???

Posted on December 14, 2010

It may seems trivial but stating it again helps us put things in perspective: we start growing old when… we are born. The Aging process has multiple phases and we usually only mention “Age” for the older part of our life. It is actually now commonly accepted that the average human body reaches its full physical potential at the age of 28 and then starts declining.
But what about happiness?
When people start out on adult life, they are, on average, pretty cheerful. Things go downhill from youth to middle age until they reach a nadir commonly known as the mid-life crisis. So far, so familiar. The surprising part happens after that. Although as people move towards old age they lose things they treasure—vitality, mental sharpness and looks—they also gain what people spend their lives pursuing: happiness.

Recent findings published and featured in an article in the The Economist illustrates why, beyond middle age, people get happier as they get older.

The U-bend shows up in studies not just of global well-being but also of hedonic or emotional well-being. One paper, published this year by Arthur Stone, Joseph Schwartz and Joan Broderick of Stony Brook University, and Angus Deaton of Princeton, breaks well-being down into positive and negative feelings and looks at how the experience of those emotions varies through life. Enjoyment and happiness dip in middle age, then pick up; stress rises during the early 20s, then falls sharply; worry peaks in middle age, and falls sharply thereafter; anger declines throughout life; sadness rises slightly in middle age, and falls thereafter.

Turn the question upside down, and the pattern still appears. When the British Labour Force Survey asks people whether they are depressed, the U-bend becomes an arc, peaking at 46.

Interestingly, these studies do not show if the older respondent to the study live in retirement communities 😉