One day when my daughter was just an infant, my husband was pushing her around the Toronto Eaton Centre in her baby stroller. They entered an elevator together and saw an elderly man in there, who turned to my husband and said that the world would be a better place without babies like her in it. (I know. Really.)
I think about that man once in awhile, especially when I walk past babies. It leaves me wondering — along with why anyone would say that about an infant — if grouchiness is in my destiny? Am I eventually going to grow into being a crotchety senior? I’m not trying to stereotype seniors — I just know I can be a grump at the best of times, so do I turn into a full-time grouch once I hit 60?
Turns out, likely no, says a new study. In fact, happiness seems to take the form of a U-shape, reports new research from Bert Van Landeghem, an economist with Maastricht University in the Netherlands. It seems — according to the surveys conducted of done by 45,000 people in Germany, Switzerland and Britain — happiness starts to fall off in our 20s and 40s, and then into our 50s and beyond, it starts to swing back upwards again. Wanting to know more about my future happiness, I dropped a line to Van Landeghem.
Q: You note that scores of how happy people are start dropping as young as 25 years old. What is behind that?
A: One reason may be that people’s aspirations/expectations about their lives are not always being met.
Q: And then beyond that—as we age, why are we less happy?
A: Our worries generally peak around midlife. And then after midlife, people seem to adapt their aspirations and expectations for their lives, and then they seem to focus on what they have or on what they are good at.
Q: Did you find any difference between men and women, or from different countries?
A: The U-shape seems to be universal. It appears for both males and females, and it is observed across the entire globe, in industrialized countries, transition countries and also developing countries.
Q: So where does this leave us?
A: These research findings may look depressing. However, they can offer some comfort to people who are in the dip of this curve. Many people have to go through this period, but the situation will steadily improve afterward.
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