Health & Medicine - Posted by Belinda Berry-Queensland on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 14:17 - 1 Comment
Happiness ‘wave’ crests at retirement
U. QUEENSLAND (AUS) — People are at their happiest at retirement age and their most miserable in their geriatric years, according to a new study that shows how happiness changes over a lifetime.
The study also debunks the idea of the middle-age blues, blaming an over-representation of unhappy respondents in previous surveys.
Collecting data from more than 60,000 people in Australia, Britain, and Germany, researchers found people were happiest as they entered retirement age (55-75), and most miserable close to death (80-90). For a representative 18-year-old with a happiness level of 7 on a 10-point scale, the peak happiness age was 65 in Australia, reaching 7.3, compared with Britain (7.2 at aged 70), and Germany (7 at 65).
Straight from the Source
“We all strive toward happiness, but we wanted to find out at what point in life we actually reach this goal,” says Tony Beatton of Queensland University of Technology.
“Our interpretation of these findings is that individuals over 55 no longer have unrealistic expectations of what their life will be like and simply enjoy their reasonable health and wealth, leading to a marked surge in happiness. As their health starts to deteriorate after 75, their happiness plunges.”
The study considered figures from three surveys—the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey of 16,000 people in Australia, the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) of 25,000 in England and the German Socioeconomic Panel Survey (GSOEP) of 20,600 people in Germany.
It found in Australia, happiness peaks at 7.3 by age 65 but then drops increasingly fast as death approaches, with happiness levels at 6.6 at the age of 90 and over.
In Britain, the figures were similar, with the happiness peak slightly later at age 70, and the peak itself not as high as for Australians, reaching only 7.2, then declining to 6.3 over the age of 90.
“Life in old age is clearly relatively better in Australia than the UK, perchance because of the better weather, more generous public pensions, and more space for the grey nomads to roam,” says Beatton.
In Germany, happiness peaks at 7 at age 65, preceded by a reduction in happiness during early adulthood. A sharp drop occurs after age 75. Over 90, happiness level drop to around 5.8.
“Life appears to simply get worse and worse in Germany after the age of 18,” says Beatton. “Also, it appears mainly miserable middle-aged Germans respond to the GSOEP, and they become more honest and miserable as they answer the questions year after year, leaving problems with the data.”
Previous studies appear to have been hampered by having relatively more middle-aged people in their data than in the actual population.
“Happy people in middle age are busy and don’t have time to participate in lengthy surveys, while more miserable people tend to keep responding to the survey. This led previous studies to erroneously show high degrees of unhappiness in middle-age,” says Beatton.
“If you follow the same people over time however, you do not see this drop in happiness level when people get into their 40s, hence no middle-age ‘U-shaped blues” pattern can be found, particularly not in Australia or Britain,” he says.
More news from the University of Queensland: http://www.uq.edu.au/