Happiness not a matter of age: Study

It is a myth that the happiest days of people's lives occur when they're young, says a study.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2006 17:52 IST

It is a myth that the happiest days of people's lives occur when they're young, confirms a recent research undertaken by the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and University of Michigan researchers.

The study found that both young and older people got it wrong when they thought that young people are happier than the older generation.

The study involved more than 540 adults who were either between the ages of 21 and 40, or over age 60.

All were asked to rate or predict their own individual happiness at their current age, at age 30 and at age 70, and also to judge how happy most people are at those ages.

"Overall, people got it wrong, believing that most people become less happy as they age, when in fact this study and others have shown that people tend to become happier over time," said lead author Heather Lacey.

The research further stated that people's happiness in old age results from their underlying emotional resources that appear to grow with age.

People get better at managing life's ups and downs, and the result is that as they age, they become happier even though their objective circumstances, such as their health, decline.

The senior author of the new paper, Peter Ubel, M.D., has conducted several of these studies, and has found that ill people are often surprisingly happy, sometimes just as happy as healthy people.

This suggests an adaptability or resilience in the face of their medical problems.

"It's not that people overestimate their happiness, but rather that they learn how to value life from adversities like being sick. What the sick learn from being sick, the rest of us come to over time," Lacey said.

In all, a statistical analysis of the results show, people in the older group reported a current level of happiness for themselves that was significantly higher than the self-rating made by the younger group's members.

And yet, participants of all ages thought that the average 30-year-old would be happier than the average 70-year-old, and that happiness would decline with age.

First Published: Jun 13, 2006 17:52 IST