AirTalk for July 30, 2013

What’s your number? Research shows happiness peaks at ages 23 and 69

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At what age do you remember being happiest?

If you’re still a young college student then rest assured that the best years of your life are just a few more midterms away. And if you’re past the age of 25, then don’t despair because at around retirement age, things will start looking up again.

A new research study from the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics surveyed more than 23,000 people in Germany. Residents between the ages of 17 to 85 were asked how satisfied they were with their current lives and how satisfied they expected to be in five years. This study confirmed the U-shape pattern that similar studies have also discovered.

This U-shape pattern has found that across gender, income and background, people tend to be the most satisfied in their mid-20s. Then, from their mid-20s to mid-50s, life satisfaction declines and hits a low point. But after that low (mid-life crisis?), people start to become more satisfied with their lives and their satisfaction level once again peaks in their late 60s.

In this new study by researcher Dr. Hannes Schwandt, life satisfaction peaks at the average ages of 23 and 69. Schwandt determined to understand why this U-shape occurs and discovered that people become discontent mid-life because of disappointments at unfulfilled expectations. Schwandt says that young people are over-optimistic about their lives and become frustrated when reality proves to be less than ideal. However, when people get past these regrets and have lower expectations, people become more satisfied with their lives.

Does this study hold true in your experience? At what age were you the happiest and why? Is there really a mid-life slump?

Guest:
Hannes Schwandt, Ph.D., research associate at The Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton and author of “Unmet Aspirations as an Explanation for the Age U-shape in Human Wellbeing”


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