Researchers found out that happiness is higher as people get older, debunking the idea that seniors are by default grumpy and depressive.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. It relied on random phone calls and assessed the participants’ cognitive skills and level of satisfaction with life. Although the samples are equivalent to a captured moment of a person’s life, the results appeared to be reliable enough for researchers to assure that older people have lower levels of anxiety and depression than those in their middle age.
Measuring happiness through a survey
Researchers studied 1,546 people aged 21 to 99 located in the city of San Diego. The participants were interviewed and were asked about their mental and physical health. Some questions were about how happy they were with their lives and how were they feeling at that particular moment.
Results show that older people have a worse state of physical health while also showing higher levels of cognitive impairment. The leveraging factor was the mental health of older individuals, as younger people reported higher levels of depression and stress, coupled with low happiness, contrary to older participants who were reportedly more satisfied with life.
“As they got older, it looks like things started getting better for them. It suggests that with age, there’s a progressive improvement in mental health,” stated the lead author of the study Dr. Dilip Jeste, a specialist in geriatric psychiatry from the University of California, San Diego.
Jeste suggests that younger people have to deal with expectations and pressure from their peers and themselves, while older people can rescind of most of life’s responsibilities and causes of stress, allowing them to be happier and less inclined to be worried about things that do not directly affect them.
The competition for obtaining a better job, a better education, and struggling to find a place in today’s economy was suggested as one of the main factors contributing to the increasing number of young adults that confess suffering from depression.
Although the study’s findings may be deemed as biased due to all of the participants residing in San Diego, Dr. Jeste says that the critical factor is the consistency that the results showed when assessing the level of happiness of the elderly.
It has been named ‘the paradox of aging’
The main factor behind the varying levels of mental health linked to aging is the reduced appearance of negative emotions such as frustration, stress, anger, and depression, all of which tend to be less frequent in older people. Dr. Jeste suggests that these changes are due to their wisdom, as it is a trait that includes empathy, decisiveness, and self-knowledge, all of which lead to a fuller and happier life.
But perhaps the study needs to broaden its spectrum of sampling, as it needs to survey people residing in nursing homes and places where public elderly care can be correctly linked to the participants’ responses to the survey.