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The Science Behind Increased Happiness and Aging

 As paradoxical as it may seem, people actually become happier as they get older. While many things in our lives are supposed to worsen as we age, the odd thing is that we actually start to feel better.


A study containing 1,500 participants was recently carried out in San Diego, California, USA. The participants were aged between 21 and 99 years old. The researchers conducting the study found that the most stressed out and depressed of all the age groups were participants in their twenties. In contrast, it was people in their nineties who were shown to be the happiest.

Researchers also observed a striking consistency in their findings. Participants in old age were shown to be happier, at peace with themselves and less depressed. They were also less anxious and less stressed.

The researchers theorized that their findings were the result of the wisdom people garner as they age and mature. This garnered wisdom includes empathy, compassion, self-knowledge, openness to new ideas, decisiveness, emotional regulation and increasingly doing things for others rather than just for oneself.

This study is just one of a number of other studies carried out recently that have shown a strong correlation between aging and increases in overall feelings of wellbeing.

Another reason why people are generally happier when they’re older is because they become more trusting. Two large-scale studies, conducted at Northwestern University and the University at Buffalo respectively, have shown concrete evidence for this.

Conducted over a 30-year period, the first study observed the association between trust and age, with an enormous sample of 200,000 people from 83 countries. The second observed a sample of 1,230 people representing different age groups, namely millennials, generation x and baby boomers.


Both studies came to the same conclusion – that people became more trusting as they aged and were happier as a result. With age, people increasingly tend to look on the bright side and see the best in others. Aging also seemed to make people more forgiving of little let-downs.

In 2015, a study conducted by Gallup-Heathways surveyed over 173,000 people in the US. Participants aged 55 and over had a higher rate of financial wellbeing. Some 52% of that age group also responded that they were “thriving”, in contrast to 32% of the participants aged less than 55. Furthermore, participants over the age of 55 were found to eat more healthily than their younger counterparts. Even more intriguing was the finding that levels of depression and obesity dropped off dramatically after the age of 64.

Researchers at Northeastern University and the Georgia Institute of Technology conducted cognitive studies that found that older people tended to focus on and remember happier stimuli (such as pictures), better than ones that had negative or unsettling connotations. Cognitive processes are thought to help older people regulate their emotions, allowing them to view life in a more positive light.

Another marked difference between younger and older people was observed in a study conducted at Brown University. While younger people actively sought out more memorable adventures, older people were happy with ordinary, everyday things.


When someone’s time left is limited, their tendency is to savor what they already have rather than seeking out defining memories, such as falling in love, traveling or starting a family. A cup of coffee with a friend or a great walk with the dog is enough.

While most people are preoccupied with how they’re going to spend the next hour, weekend or vacation, proverbs and popular culture frequently remind us all that we should spend our time wisely, because our days will be numbered sooner or later.  An optimistic side to this is that we’re all likely to view our world from a much more positive perspective as we age, and make peace with our lives and what we’ve done with them.

Content Source: Mother Nature Network

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