Feel Better About Adulthood, Science Says You're Happier The Older You Get

by Talia Koren
wendy laurel

You might think if you're not happy in life now, you might never be.

It kind of makes sense. As we get older, our bodies start to hurt more. Responsibilities pile up. Maybe we have regrets.

Contrary to that belief, scientists have proved happiness levels are actually higher as we age.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found people in their 20s were more stressed out and depressed compared to people in their 90s. Researchers did a survey that included 1,500 people living in San Diego between the ages of 21 and 99, and their findings surprised them.

Personally, I'm not surprised. I don't think people who are in their 90s are stressing over which Snapchat filter to use at a music festival.

The most interesting part is, there was a clear, linear correlation between mental health and age.

The younger people consistently felt worse than the older people. There were no dips at all.

Senior study author Dilip Jeste was also surprised by these results.

He said,

The consistency was really striking [...] People who were in older life were happier, more satisfied, less depressed, had less anxiety and less perceived stress than younger respondents.

Why do people feel happier as they get older? Well, scientists speculate there are several factors.

For example, as we age, our goals become more about maintaining relationships and experiencing meaningful activities instead of gaining material things. That and, well, we get more life experience, which is inevitable.

By the time you're 55, you've probably seen some shit.

Director at The Stanford Center on Longevity, Laura Carstensen, elaborated on these factors.

She said,

When people face endings they tend to shift from goals about exploration and expanding horizons to ones about savoring relationships and focusing on meaningful activities [...] When you focus on emotionally meaningful goals, life gets better, you feel better, and the negative emotions become less frequent and more fleeting when they occur.

As we age, we just get better at making decisions. Plus, things that stress you out in your 20s probably won't faze you in your 50s and beyond.

This is proof you're not doing your mental health any favors by getting hung up on that guy or girl who ghosted you three months ago. And maybe taking up hobbies you love to replace recovering from hangovers on weekends will do a positive number on your mental health, too.

Real happiness is all about focusing on what really matters, people.

And the sooner you realize what matters to you, the sooner you'll feel happier.

Citations: The aging paradox: The older we get, the happier we are (Los Angeles Times)