Healthy living * Mental wellbeing

Happiness is u-shaped

Happiness is U-shaped It's all downhill after 20!

If you are middle-aged and miserable, don't worry, as happiness is ahead of you.

Happiness follows a U-shaped curve during the course of a person's lifetime, a study has found.

People are most satisfied with their lot in life until their early twenties, but this starts to fall and hits rock bottom by the time they reach middle age and it does not improve until the early 50s, said Bert Van Landeghem, an economist at Maastricht University in The Netherlands.

Although people seem to be as happy at the beginning of life as at the end of life, the mid-life dip was equivalent to "the same effect on happiness as becoming unemployed or losing a close family member," the study found.

The researchers reached their conclusion after surveying people living in Germany, but say their findings confirm studies from other countries, including the UK.

The reasons why people's happiness changes as they age still remains something of a mystery.

Studies have shown that a person's happiness is not just dependent on what they have, but is also influenced by their friends and family's possessions.

It may also be true that people acquire more wisdom as they grow older and their aspirations change during a lifetime.

The u-shaped happiness curve does not necessarily imply that a 65 year-old prefers their own life above the life of a 25 year old.

"Both the 25 year old and 65 year old might agree that it is nicer to be 25 than to be 65, but the 65 year-old might nevertheless be more satisfied, as he has learned to be satisfied with what he has," said Mr Van Landeghem.

The findings will be presented at the Royal Economic Society annual conference in London this week.

This article was published on Mon 18 April 2011

Image © Yuri Arcurs -

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