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Life gets better after 50: why age tends to work in favour of happiness

When the U-curve occurs

According to a study by economists, the U-curve is generally noticed at age 46. It tends to appear in wealthier countries.

However, some economists and psychologists factor in the possibility that those who become happier in the studies are the same people who are content in their early years.

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Life gets better after 50: why age tends to work in favour of happiness

Life gets better after 50: why age tends to work in favour of happiness

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/may/05/happiness-curve-life-gets-better-after-50-jonathan-rauch

theguardian.com

5

Key Ideas

The happiness curve

There is increasing evidence that happiness through adulthood is U-shaped.

Life satisfaction falls in our 20s and 30s, then hitting a low in our late 40s before increasing until our 80s.

The midlife slump

That midlife slump (not to be confused with a midlife crisis) is often nothing - just a natural transition due to the passing of time.

Those likely to notice it are people that seem to have everything going for them; they're achieving their goals, and nothing much changed, yet they feel less satisfied than they expected and think there must be something wrong with their lives.

When the U-curve occurs

According to a study by economists, the U-curve is generally noticed at age 46. It tends to appear in wealthier countries.

However, some economists and psychologists factor in the possibility that those who become happier in the studies are the same people who are content in their early years.

Values change with age

When we are young, we are often over-optimistic about the satisfaction we will gain out of our future successes. With age, as our ambition drives us to more, we don't feel the satisfaction we expected, so we wonder if there's something wrong with us.

It is only once we realize that our values change with age - in that we savor other simpler pursuits such as relationships, a hobby, or volunteer work - that we gain satisfaction.

Untapped wisdom

There is a huge amount of untapped wisdom and potential in older people.

Because of the happiness curve, they are often in a position where they desire to give back by being mentors, volunteers, or work easier jobs, which allow them to use their skills.

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Mid-career crises

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Mid-career crises do not discriminate

The age-related curve in job satisfaction has been found in more than 50 countries. It affects senior-level executives as well as blue-collar workers, stay-at-home parents, childless couples and single people.

Generally, life satisfaction is high when people are young, it starts to decline in the early 30s and is the lowest between mid-40s and mid-50s. Then it increases again to levels as high as during young adulthood.

Life aspirations
  • Young people are overly optimistic and expect significant increases in life satisfaction. 
  • As we age, we become disillusioned as our aspirations evaporate. 
  • When we bottom out, we come to terms with our circumstances and accept life. 
  • People over 50 tend to underestimate their future satisfaction, and increases come as an unexpected surprise, which raises satisfaction levels.

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A midlife crisis
A midlife crisis

The disappointment with life is often the difference between our expectations for ourselves and what life actually holds for us.

According to research, people's happiness forms a U shape ove...

The trend is worldwide

People’s happiness is the lowest around the ages of 47 to 49. The dip in happiness is the same everywhere: In America, Germany, Thailand, Pakistan, even in countries with a lower life expectancy.

Happiness dip causes

The happiness dip may have to do with getting real - finding that our dreams are not going to happen. That can be a painful reality check.

If we don't use the midlife self-reflection positively, we may become disillusioned and make rash decisions or end relationships that can be damaging to our well-being.

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A midlife crisis
A midlife crisis is often seen as a pivot point of life, where attention shifts from time past to time that is still left. It is usually a period of despair and requires a process of adjustment.
When a midlife crisis should appear

Concepts of middle age change as we get older. People aged over 60 recalled their midlife crisis at 53, while those in their 40s dated theirs to 38.

It appears that there are no distinct midlife crises, but rather crises that occur from time to time.

The theory of midlife crises
  • The term "midlife crises" was coined in 1965, and reflects the dawning recognition of one's mortality where death becomes a personal matter.
  • According to Elliot Jaques, the key achievement of middle age is to move beyond youthful idealism to a constructive acceptance.
  • Other explanations are that it is when children may be leaving home, when chronic illnesses often make their first appearance, or when workplace demands may be peaking.

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Well-being of adults
Well-being of adults
  • Studies show that most adults' happiness declines through their 30s and 40s, then hit a low in their early 50s.
  • After that, studies show that, in wealthier countries, most peop...
The memory of past success

Current achievements provide happiness, but the memory of past accomplishments do not appear to produce long-lasting happiness.


The waning of ability in people of high accomplishment is particularly difficult psychologically. Retired athletes struggle profoundly after their sports career ends. They are prone to depression, addiction, or suicide.

"Unhappy is he who depends on success to be happy. For such a person, the end of a successful career is the end of the line. His destiny is to die of bitterness or to search for more success in other careers and to go on living from success to success until he falls dead. In this case, there will not be life after success."

"Unhappy is he who depends on success to be happy. For such a person, the end of a successful career is the end of the line. His destiny is to die of bitterness or to search for more success in other careers and to go on living from success to success until he falls dead. In this case, there will not be life after success."

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  • Time is on your side.  The earlier you start saving money, the more time you give compounding to work for you. 
  • Take risks when you're young.  Althoug...
Happiness

Happiness and satisfaction are subjective concepts – while for some of us monetary benefits can be equated with job satisfaction, some might strive for recognition of their hard-work and los...

Workplace Happiness defined

In a fundamental sense, workplace happiness comes when:

  • We enjoy doing the tasks assigned to us
  • We feel right about the people we are working with
  • We are happy with the financial benefits we get from the job
  • We have the scope of improving our existing skills
  • We feel respected and acknowledged at work
Importance Of Happiness At Work

Happy employees are compulsory for a growing business.

A study on organizational success revealed that employees who feel happy in the workplace are 65% more energetic than employees who don’t. They are two times more productive and are more likely to sustain their jobs over a long period of time.

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The greatest motivation
The most motivational statement comes down to three words: “You’re gonna die.”

You get one life and one chance to make yourself happy. Instead of sitting and complaining about not purs...

The life you want
No matter your age, you have the time to make yourself happy:
  • If you’re in your early 20s, most likely you don't have major life commitments, so this is the time to take the chance on the life you want: travel, experiment with your talents, start networking.
  • If you’re in your 40s, 50s, 60s, or older, instead of retiring and taking up golf, maybe it’s time to triple down and really focus on what you want. 
Stop making excuses
There’s this tendency people have to pass over opportunities when they think they can just “come back to it later.” People are living their lives like they have unlimited time. 

The biggest poison we encounter as humans is regret, so stop making excuses and start making yourself happy.

Increasing your well-being

A growing body of research shows we can reliably raise our well-being.

Reframing the way we think about money and making financial decisions can lead to long-term gains in life satisfaction.&...

Two categories of happiness
  • The level of positive emotions. This includes pride, joy, contentment, and curiosity we experience on a day-to-day basis. How happy you are on an immediate basis fluctuates by the day or even the hour.
  • The overarching sense of contentment. How happy you are overall, generally remains the same. When you rate your happiness on a 10-point scale, if you are a seven kind of person, you will often stay around seven.
Buy time

Buying time by outsourcing unpleasant or disliked tasks can benefit our well-being. 

Unfortunately, we're not great at valuing time over money. To change our spending habits, it helps to value time more than money. It could mean that we seek a job for its flexibility rather than the salary and prestige.

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Tips For Finding The Right Goals
Tips For Finding The Right Goals
  • Listen to your discontent. It tells you when something is wrong. And that could be the thing you need to correct.
  • Combine it with something that inspires y...
Chris Guillebeau
Chris Guillebeau

"Embracing new things often requires us to embrace our fears, however trivial they may seem. You deal with fear not by pretending it doesn’t exist, but by refusing to give it decision-making authority."

What Happens After You Achieve Your Goals

If the goal is meaningful, it will transform you. You’ll be more confident, mature, capable of seeing even bigger adventures, and empowered to pursue them.

A quest might end better than we imagine or disastrously. Either way, there’s always another adventure if we’re willing to pursue it.

The benefit of happy employees
Organisations investing heavily in fostering a happiness culture see a good return on investment.
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Fostering well-being

There is a real difference between happiness gimmicks and working in a well-being culture: 

  • one that values people
  • one that manages them by praise and reward rather than fault-finding
  • one that enables them to work flexibly and provides them with work-life balance.
Working remotely
A 2017 study found that 57% of start-up businesses had at least one member who worked remotely, either from home or wherever they happened to want to work.

An added benefit here is the implied trust and autonomy of allowing staff to work remotely may contribute more to their happiness than dragging them into an office stocked with free coffee and fruit.

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