It's the ultimate irony. Teenagers just can't wait to grow up, to establish themselves as full-fledged adults, and partake of the real world. Adults, especially those whizzing past sixty, long for the days of youthful indiscretion, boundless energy, and the decades of life stretching out before them. But, though each age has its unique perspectives and dilemmas, how does each generation's longing impact their overall view of life?
A study at the University of Chicago says teenage angst trumps elderly melancholy when it comes to happiness. The researchers assessed data collected over a three-decade period by their National Opinion Research Center. Each year from 1972 to 2004 the center conducted face-to-face interviews with between 1,500 and 3,000 individuals. Each person was asked to assess their happiness with the standardized question, "Taken all together, how would you say things are these days-would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?"
The results are quite enlightening. Those angst-ridden teens are the least likely to be happy, with only 15 to 33 percent expressing contentment. White women scored the highest, at 33%, followed by white men at 28%, black women at 18%, and black men at 15%.
But, age changes everything.
Not only did the survey show people grow happier overall as they age, it also revealed the differences between men and women, and blacks and whites diminish. As a matter of fact, by the time people reach their late 80s, more blacks than whites say they are happy, with over 50% of blacks saying they are "very happy." Researchers postulate that as we age we mature and gain positive psychosocial traits that allow us to better deal with life's difficulties.
There is one group that struggles on the happiness scale: the baby boomers. "This is probably due to the fact that the generation as a group was so large, and their expectations were so great, that not everyone in the group could get what he or she wanted as they aged due to competition for opportunities. This could lead to disappointment that could undermine happiness," said Yang Yang, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago.
So, how do you find happiness? Hmm... It appears that if you hang around long enough you'll simply stumble upon it...To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about living an active, healthy life as you age, see this from Helpguide.org.