Is it your 20s, 30s, 40s, or beyond? Scientists have published research that finally tells us what age we are the happiest — and it may not be what you think.
In a thorough meta-analytic review published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, a research team from the German Sport University Cologne, Ruhr University Bochum, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, and the universities of Bern and Basel in Switzerland provided insight on happiness.
Based on 443 samples from longitudinal studies, including a total of 460,902 people, the researchers analyzed patterns in subjective well-being throughout the lifetime of their research.
According to the scientists, life satisfaction declined between the ages of nine and 16 before somewhat increasing till the age of 70 and reducing until the age of 96. Negative emotional states varied somewhat between years 9 and 22, then decreased until age 60 before increasing again.
Positive emotional states, on the other hand, exhibited a steady drop from age nine to age 94. The scientists found that positive and negative emotional states saw more considerable median changes than life satisfaction.
The research team says the study generally showed a favorable tendency throughout a broad spectrum of life if we consider life satisfaction and negative emotional states.
The minor decrease in life satisfaction between the ages of nine and 16 is attributed by the researchers, among other things, to changes in the body and social life throughout puberty. In short, being a kid is tough.
From young adulthood onward, satisfaction increases again. From infancy through late adulthood, sentiments of happiness tend to diminish. All aspects of subjective well-being tended to deteriorate rather than improve in late adulthood.
They say this could be connected to the fact that physical function declines, health frequently deteriorates, and social interactions are reduced in significantly older adults — not the least because their friends pass away.
Per the study's findings, it is essential to consider and support subjective well-being over the lifespan. Their findings may offer practical direction for creating intervention programs, particularly those aiming at preserving or enhancing emotional well-being in later life.