You probably thought that babies are the happiest people on Earth because they’re innocent and have no sense yet of the many problems inherent in life.
I thought so, too. Ah, those innocent angelic faces of babies. They must be the happiest people alive.
It turns that this isn’t so. According to the latest research on the subject, the oldest people in society are the happiest of them all.
Surprised? You thought that with all their wrinkles, arthritis and all other body pains they’re suffering from, the oldies will sulk their way to their own grave?
“The good news is that with age comes happiness,” said study author Yang Yang, a University of Chicago sociologist. “Life gets better in one’s perception as one ages.”
Yang said that although a certain amount of physical and emotional pain in old age is inevitable — including body aches and the deaths of loved ones and friends — older people generally have learned to be more content with what they have than younger adults.
The main reason is that older people have learned to lower their expectations and accept their achievements, said Duke University aging expert Linda George. An older person may realize “it’s fine that I was a schoolteacher and not a Nobel prize winner,” she said.
George, who was not involved in the new study, believes the research is important because people tend to think that “late life is far from the best stage of life, and they don’t look forward to it.”
Yang’s findings are based on periodic face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of Americans from 1972 to 2004. About 28,000 people ages 18 to 88 took part.
There were ups and downs in overall happiness levels during the study, generally corresponding with good and bad economic times. But at every stage, older Americans were the happiest.
In general, the odds of being happy increased 5 percent with every 10 years of age.
Overall, about 33 percent of the respondents reported being very happy at age 88, versus about 24 percent of those age 18 to their early 20s.
The study appears in April’s American Sociological Review.
This is really good news for all. Now, we don’t need to fear getting old. The real fun only begins when you’re 88!