Monday, April 09, 2007

Happiness & Aging

This is a little off topic, but I came across it and wanted to share with everyone:

People with higher incomes today report greater happiness than those poorer. At the same time, people today are richer than earlier generations, but they're not happier than them. A new study by economists David Blanchflower of Dartmouth and Andrew Oswald of Warwick report how happiness evolves as people age, “while income and wealth tend to rise steadily over the life cycle, peaking around retirement, happiness follows a U-shaped age pattern.”

Between the years of 1974-2004, 45,000 Americans were asked to rate their happiness on a three-point scale:
1) Not too happy
2) Pretty happy
3) Very happy
The average happiness score in the US was a 2.2.

Between the years of 1975-1998, 400,000 Europeans (11 countries), were asked to rate their happiness on a four-point scale:
1) Not at all satisfied
2) Not very satisfied
3) Fairly satisfied
4) Very satisfied
The average happiness score in Europe was a 3.0.

Upon analysis of the data for both men and women in the two continents, the economists found that happiness starts off relatively high in early adulthood, then continues to drop until age 45, at which time it begins to rise into old age.

Over the last century, Americans have become less happy. The authors compared men born in the 1960s against men born in the 1920s and noted a tenfold difference in income. But lower income individuals born in the 1920s were happier than higher income individuals born in the 1960s. Here the European pattern diverges. Happiness falls for the birth years from 1900 to about 1950, and generations born on the continent since World War II have become happier. So, why does happiness start strong, dip with middle age, and then revive among the elderly? The authors speculate that people come to understand their strengths and weaknesses and "in mid-life quell the infeasible aspirations of their youth.”

So if money doesn’t buy happiness, what does? Does anything? If you look at our society, perhaps we are successful, but what are we sacrificing? Are we sacrificing quality time with our families, and what effect is that having on the values we teach or do not teach our children? Are we focusing on material possessions? What does this all say about aging? Should an increased effort be put into studies on improving ailments of the aged so they may live longer and more fulfilled lives – truly making these the golden years? The Alliance for Aging is spearheading research efforts on behalf of the aged. Their aim is to ‘advance science and enhance lives through a variety of activities and initiatives.’ If interested, please go to their website to see what you can do to improve the state of the aged in our country, after all, we will soon not be far behind…

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