Decline in Happiness in People over 30 Doesn’t Portend Decline in Health

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
(photo: Getty Images)

People over 30 are less happy than they used to be, according to a new study. But the good news is, a second study reveals, the decline in happiness won’t affect their health.


Research until now showed that people tend to get happier as they grow older, at least until age 65. But starting right after the Great Recession the trend shifted.


Since 2010, adults have reported less happiness than young people, “reversing old notions of how happiness changes across the life span,” Stephanie Pappas wrote at The Washington Post.


Psychologist Jean Twenge at UC San Diego told Pappas that her research showed happiness levels are on the rise in adolescents, but people older than 30 are becoming less happy over time. “My conclusion is that our current culture is giving teens what they need, but not mature adults what they need,” Twenge said.


The researchers also found that although there is no cause-and-effect linked to the decline in happiness among older people, the marriage rate has declined and income inequality has increased over the period studied.


In addition, a 10-year British study involving 1 million middle-aged women in Britain found happiness does not enhance health and longevity.


“Happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality,” the researchers concluded in The Lancet.


Although a substantial number of those studied reported they were stressed or unhappy, they were no more likely than other members of the study to die over the period of the survey.


Sir Richard Peto, one of the study’s authors and a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, called the findings “good news for the grumpy.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Happiness Doesn’t Bring Good Health, Study Finds (by Denise Grady, New York Times)

Happiness Levels are Rising for Teens, But Not for People Older than 30 (by Stephanie Pappas, Washington Post)

More Happiness for Young People and Less for Mature Adults (by Jean M. Twenge, Ryne A. Sherman and Sonja Lyubomirsky, SAGE Journals) (abstract)

Does Happiness Itself Directly Affect Mortality? The Prospective UK Million Women Study (by Bette Liu, Sarah Floud, PhD, Kirstin Pirie, MSc, Prof. Jane Green, Prof. Richard Peto, FRS, Prof. Valerie Beral, The Lancet)

Switzerland Wins Happiest Country Ranking; U.S. 15th of 158 (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Money Actually Does Buy Happiness, Says Study (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


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