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Here's Scientific Proof That Life Gets Better As You Get Older

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  • Here's Scientific Proof That Life Gets Better As You Get Older

    Here's Scientific Proof That Life Gets Better As You Get Older
    The Huffington Post | by Carolyn Gregoire

    In the game of life, is it all downhill as young adulthood turns into maturity? Our culture of youth obsession and celebration of the college years and 20s as the golden years of one's life has led many of us to believe that our happiness declines as we age. Some (rather depressing) research has found that 80 percent of life's defining moments by the age of 35 -- suggesting that there may not be much to look forward to in the second half of life.

    But this couldn't be further from the truth. The concentration of life's major events in adolescence and early adulthood may not be anything to feel discouraged about -- and it certainly doesn't mean that happiness and life satisfaction decline as we get older. In fact, a growing body of research has proven that we're wrong to think that happiness is correlated with youth. A wealth of scientific and anecdotal evidence demonstrates precisely that it's when people have surpassed many of life's big landmarks that their overall satisfaction and happiness peaks.

    Our culture of YOLO and Botox may valorize youth and instill in us a fear and distaste of aging, but this attitude doesn't come close to reflecting the reality of getting older -- and we'd do well to celebrate the ways that life improves as we age.

    Here are six scientifically-proven reasons that happiness and aging go hand in hand.

    Happiness peaks at 69.

    A highly-publicized recent study suggested that there might be two major peaks of life satisfaction -- one in the early 20s and one in old age. Specifically, the ages of 23 and 69 were found to be the happiest years. After the early 20s, happiness was generally found to decline until the mid-50s, after which point it increased again into the 80s.

    Other studies (notably, a large 2010 Gallup poll) have corroborated this finding, suggesting that happiness tends to be positively linked with age. Though it may sound counterintuitive, the Gallup poll found that 85-year-olds are generally more satisfied with themselves than 18-year-olds.

    “It’s a very encouraging fact that we can expect to be happier in our early 80s than we were in our 20s,” Andrew J. Oswald, a professor of psychology at Warwick Business School, told the New York Times. “And it’s not being driven predominantly by things that happen in life. It’s something very deep and quite human that seems to be driving this.”

    Life isn't a downhill decline -- it's a U-curve.

    As the Gallup poll found, happiness is likely to peak in young adulthood, hit a low point during the late 40s and 50s, and then increase again into later life and old age.

    "Mankind is wrong to dread aging," The Economist wrote, noting that happiness arcs through the average individual's lifespan. "Life is not a long slow decline from sunlit uplands towards the valley of death. It is, rather, a U-bend."

    Economists mining happiness research and self-reported well-being data discovered a perhaps counterintuitive truth: After roughly the age of 50 -- when happiness slumps -- the closer we get to old age, the happier we become.

    The trajectory looks like this: On average, happiness declines from youth to middle age until you hit the "midlife crisis" point, at which point -- as people head towards old age -- they experience surging levels of happiness and life satisfaction. The U-curve of happiness has been documented in countries around the world, and applies to both global well-being and emotional wellness, The Economist reported.

    There are many possible explanations for this U-curve, but it's likely that decreased ambition and greater acceptance plays a significant role.
    Much more.

    I'm not exactly in geezer territory (despite early retirement) but I find this to be true.

    A lot of my problems in youth turned out to be false, stupid, or self-generated. I sincerely sort of cared about ambition, relationships (all kinds, not just romantic), vague status indicators, etc. I noticed this and I'm introverted so I was much less influenced and affected by this stuff than my extroverted friends. It still caused problems for me that seem laughable or deranged today.

    I've always been 'outside the box' in terms of my political, social, religious, and recreational interests. There was some dissonance when my friends or family or coworkers didn't share my views. I questioned myself. Now, I've lived long enough to see that my version is successful, productive, satisfying, and deeply meaningful. I'm not reinventing myself to fit in even superficially. That's liberating. I'm confident that the decisions I made about life goals, career, relationships, and money were smart.

    I do much prefer the satisfaction that comes from smaller accomplishments now. Hanging up Career 1 has made me think a lot about what I really value and giving a paper at some conference center isn't it.

    What about you?

    Huff Po
    "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."