Grumpy Old Men is a movie about aging and attitude, and as the title indicates, it’s not about getting old gracefully.
But a 2008 Gallup poll has found that by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older, and researchers are not sure why.
The results, published online May 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and reported in a New York Times story, were good news for older people, and for those who are getting old.
On the global measure, people start out at age 18 feeling pretty good about themselves, and then, apparently, life begins to throw curve balls. They feel worse and worse until they hit 50. At that point, there is a sharp reversal, and people keep getting happier as they age.
By the time they are 85, they are even more satisfied with themselves than they were at 18.
In measuring immediate well-being — yesterday’s emotional state — the researchers found that stress declines from age 22 onward, reaching its lowest point at 85. Worry stays fairly steady until 50, then sharply drops off. Anger decreases steadily from 18 on, and sadness rises to a peak at 50, declines to 73, then rises slightly again to 85.
Enjoyment and happiness have similar curves: they both decrease gradually until we hit 50, rise steadily for the next 25 years, and then decline very slightly at the end, but they never again reach the low point of our early 50s.