It turns out that rather than reminisce about the “golden age” of youth, we should look forward to turning our grandparents’ age to be happy.
There’s much more to old age than fading sight, weakening muscles and declining short-term memory. A number of recent studies indicate that happiness is more easily attained after middle age.
(More on TIME.com: See pictures of living centenarians.)
A book by Lewis Wolpert, professor emeritus of biology at University College London, sheds some light on the topic. Called You Are Looking Very Well, it argues that people are just “averagely happy” in the first third of their lives and that even that level of contentment declines by midlife.
“But then, from the mid-40s, people tend to become ever more cheerful and optimistic, perhaps reaching a maximum in their late 70s or 80s,” Wolpert told the Telegraph.
(More on TIME.com: See the secret to living 100 years.)
Several factors are at play, including maturity, diminished responsibilities and the ability to focus on the things that matter rather than chase elusive goals.
A study by the American National Academy of Sciences has found that the mental state of well-being that’s associated with youth gradually abandons us as we live through adulthood, hitting rock bottom in our mid-40s. But later, things get better, and our mood probably peaks at the ripe age of 85.
(More on TIME.com: Do we need $75,000 a year to be happy?)
Other research quoted by the Telegraph article seems to suggest that some mental faculties improve with age. Our vocabulary and decisionmaking skills increase, though we lose our math skills.
“Aging is a lot less scary than people are afraid it is,” says George Vaillant, 74, curator of the largest longitudinal study on happiness. The study has tracked the lives of 268 young men since their Cambridge years in 1937 and still chugs on today. We sure hope he’s right. (via the Telegraph)