You're Gonna Get Sadder Until You're 50, and Then You're Gonna Get Happy


The Golden Girls didn’t lie to us — getting older rules. (It’s especially amazing if you have a outwardly-cruel-but-actually-sassy-n-supportive Italian ma, but that’s totally not necessary.) (Also, staying sexually active probably doesn’t hurt — but you knew that already, Blanche.)

Our youth obsessed culture fears aging because being old is not being young and what could be worse than not being young? Well, it turns out, lots of things. In fact, according to recent research, happiness declines on a steady death march until you hit 50. However, once you’re over that hump, you get progressively happier as the days go by. The peak of joy? 85. Suck it, 20s.

A Gallup telephone poll of 340,000 people ages 18 and 85 across the U.S. showed that happiness comes with age. Dr. Arthur A. Stone, a professor of psychology at the SUNY University at Stony Brook and the study’s lead author speculated that the reason could be anything — environmental, psychological, or even biological.

Whatever the reason, it turns out people start off pretty happy with themselves at 18, and it gets progressively worse until they hit 50. At that point, people begin getting happier and by the time they reach 85, they say they’re even happier than they were when they were 18.

Similar findings have been found in other studies, as well:

A University of Chicago study also showed that happiness increases with age. The researchers asked a cross section of Americans how happy they were. The question was administered in face-to-face interviews of population samples that ranged from about 1,500 to 3,000.

It’s not hard to imagine the many reasons for this — when you hit 50, you might start to live a life without soul-sucking children in the house or soul-murdering jobs to occupy your day. You start to enjoy peaceful days in a finally quiet house, and you let go of the stress of reporting to that asshole dickface at work. There’s a lot to be said for letting go of the daily grind, commute, and packed lunch.

I wonder if it’s also that at a certain point, you realize it’s not worth it to be pissed or stressed all the time. That happened to my dad — right around his 50th birthday he took a break from his high-stress job and took up racquetball and he’s a different man. I’m definitely of the school that nobody ever changes ever DON’T TRUST ANYONE, and so to see him make a miraculous transformation was remarkable. I’m telling you, this is a dude who would fly off the handle if there were dirty dishes in the sink — now he just does those dishes himself and wonders aloud why he didn’t before. Maybe that’s giving up, or maybe it’s growing up? Either way, it’s a good thing.

The question is — is it possible to bottle some of that “fuck it bucket” attitude when you’re younger, and can you take some of that contentedness and start living it now? Or are the modern stresses of being an adult too much to afford us true comfort until we’re older? Is just knowing that we get happier after 50 enough to see us to get through comparatively tougher times? Are all these questions stressing you out and adding to your depression?

Maybe we all just need to be a little easier on ourselves, and take more time to stop and smell the flowers. Oh, and eat the cheesecake, too.

[Live Science]

Shutterstock/Lucian Coman

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