How does psychological well-being vary with age?

This week we’re sharing an interesting piece of research conducted by academics in the US who took data from 340,847 telephone interviews and mapped psychological well-being against age.

As well as calculating overall well-being, they mapped enjoyment, happiness, stress, anger, worry and sadness.

“Stress and anger steeply declined from the early 20s, worry was elevated through middle age and then declined, and sadness was essentially flat.”

Participants were asked to picture a ten-step ladder, with the best possible life on the top rung and the worst possible life on the bottom rung. Interestingly, the oldest group studied gave the highest average rung number.

Here are the graphs for enjoyment, happiness, anger, stress, worry and sadness.

They also segregated by gender. Happiness and enjoyment were fairly similar, but stress and worry produced pretty interesting results.

But why are older people, on average, happier and less stressed than younger people?

In the paper, the authors point towards previous bodies of research which discuss increased ‘wisdom’ and emotional intelligence with age, as well as work suggests that older people have an increased ability to self-regulate their emotions and view their situations positively. They also mention the “positivity effect,” where older people recall fewer negative memories than younger adults.

We think it makes interesting reading.