July 09, 2020   1:39pm

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There’s Happiness Once you Pass 40

Getting older? Guess what. There’s happiness once you pass 40 …

According to a Scientific American story “Midlife Misery: Is There Happiness After the 40s?* a new study shows that happiness follows a U-shaped curve: It is highest at the beginning and end of our lives and lowest in-between.” So the good news (depending on where you are in life) is that “once you get over that speed bump in the road of life called (gasp!) middle age,” it’s all uphill.

The authors of the study being cited [released March 2008], Andrew Oswald of Warwick University and David Blanchflower of Dartmouth, are both economists. After studying 35 years of data on 2 million people from 80 nations, they concluded that there is “a consistent pattern in depression and happiness levels that is age-related and leaves us most blue during midlife … the researchers found that depression for both men and women in the U.S. is around 44 years of age; in the U.S. women on average are most miserable at age 40 whereas men are when they hit 50. They found a similar pattern in 70 other countries … It happens to men and women, to single and married people, to rich and poor and to those with and without children … Nobody knows why we see this consistency.”

“The good news: the data show that most people emerge from this low ebb in their 50’s. And, ‘by the time you are 70, if you are still physically fit, then on average you are as happy and mentally healthy as a 20-year old.”

At these things go, of course, not everyone is in agreement. While studies in other countries have shown similar U curves, in some places even the middle-aged are quite happy — in fact, just reaching middle age is something to be proud of.

To quote the Scientific American story author Lisa Stein: “…remember this: you may be down in the dumps now — but it won’t be long before you’re on the brink of bliss.”


*Scientific American, “Midlife Misery: Is There Happiness After the 40s,” by Lisa Stein, January 30, 2008

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