I’ve been sort of under the impression that things are going to get steadily better as I get older. Sure, there are the inevitable realities of the body. The elasticity in my skin will give, I’m already kind of thinking that I’m past the bikini years, and my childbearing opportunities are not eternal. But when it actually comes to knowing how to live — what makes me happy, for example — I like to think that I can only improve with age.
That’s why it disappoints me to think that the happiness in my life might peak somewhere in the middle, and then decline. But according to a recent study reported by Martin Beckford in The Telegraph, a survey of British adults recently revealed that people are most happy at the age of 38 — which is actually pretty young to peak. Career, friends, and relationships were cited as major contributors to a sense of well-being, and the individuals surveyed appeared to feel best about those aspects of their life at an average age of 38.
Marriage seems to bring considerable contentment for both men and women. Women feel most comfortable with their bodies at the age of 31 — though, interestingly, their sexual confidence didn’t peak until 35 — and people feel like they have the best work-life balance at the age of 34. Surprisingly, twenty-somethings had a considerable share of lifetime anxiety, worrying more about money than health, spending much of their time being envious of others, and fretting more than expected about aging.
This study contradicts some of the other research about aging, that indicates that happiness increases as people move into later life, into their 90s, and particularly that the quality of marriage can increase significantly after 20 or more years. Other studies have shown that over time people learn to avoid things that make them sad or stressed out, and that the gain a healthier perspective on life.
As for me, I’m still optimistic that I’ll be even happier at 50 than I will be at 38. And maybe I’ll even decide to take another shot at a bikini…