Older people are happier than younger people. Researchers have some theories – now they just have to figure out why.
Research has shown that older people are happier than younger people, but researchers aren’t sure exactly why. Happiness researchers at Northeastern University say there’s a lot of good theory out there, but they’re still looking for direct evidence.
A focus on the positive
When older people are shown pictures of faces or situations, they tend to remember the happier ones more than the negative ones. And older people have been shown to act in ways that will make them happier, by cutting negative friends out of their social circle, for example.
Learning to let go
Other research has shown that older people are able to let go of loss, disappointment, and unachieved goals easier than younger people, and readjust their goals to focus on well-being.
But conducting happiness research can be frustrating as older people don’t always respond in predictable ways. Sometimes looking at positive pictures doesn’t make people feel happier.
Other researchers speculate that happiness in older people is the result of cognitive loss (think forgetfulness and dementia, for example) which results in people thinking simpler, happier thoughts.
A recent Gallup poll conducted in the US (December 2011) showed that older peoples’ moods improve with each hour they spend socially each day, up to about seven hours. This proved true for all age groups, but older people require less social time with friends and family to be happy than younger people do.
Another research study looked at the relationship between sex and happiness in older people. Forty percent of seniors were happy with life in general, while 60 percent of married seniors said they were happy. But sex made seniors even happier! Sixty percent of seniors who had sex more than once a month said they were happy, and 80 percent of married seniors who had sex more than once a month were happy.
As Erma Bombeck said, “As a graduate of the Zsa Zsa Gabor School of Creative mathematics, I honestly do not know how old I am.” Perhaps not focusing on numbers is one key to happiness.
I think as we get older, we simply grow more pragmatic. Life is short. We’ve survived enough catastrophes and heartache to know that there’s no point sweating the small stuff, and negativity got us nowhere. We have to live in the moment. Despite an accumulation of clichés, grey hairs, and wrinkles, growing older is definitely a happier state of mind.