Monday, May 24, 2010

Happier After 50

In what those of us lucky enough to make it to 50—and probably live in the suburbs—already know, life gets better, and this Gallup survey validates that, as reported by Science Magazine.

An excerpt.

“It doesn't matter whether you're employed, whether your children still live at home, or even whether you're married. Life gets better after age 50. A new phone survey of hundreds of thousands of Americans confirms that people tend to be happier, less anxious, and less worried once they pass the half-century mark.

“The main measure of well-being is called global well-being, which involves asking people how good they feel about their life in general. "That's been the standard in survey research," says psychologist Arthur Stone of Stony Brook University in New York state. But, he says, "this kind of question requires people to make a lot of judgments." For example, who should you be using for comparison: Your peers? Bill Gates? Victims of famine? The life you thought you'd have? It's also difficult to measure logistically: Scientists often ask people to wear pagers, and researchers beep them several times a day to remind the volunteers to record their feelings.

“Stone took a different, easier approach. Thanks to his work as a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization, which conducts a huge, ongoing telephone survey in the United States with questions on topics such as how well the president is doing his job and how confident consumers are in the economy, he was able to help write questions about specific emotions people felt the day before they took the survey. The survey reached more than 350,000 people in 2008 from all regions of the United States.

“Stone's team found that global well-being declines from the 20s to age 50, then increases steadily. Happiness and enjoyment also increase after age 50. Although sadness is fairly flat throughout the age groups, most negative feelings decline with age. Worry stays level until about 50, then drops. Anger falls steadily from the 20s; stress peaks in the 20s, starts a decline, then plummets after age 50. The patterns are almost identical for men and women, although women have more stress, worry more, and are sadder at all ages, despite reporting better global well-being than men at most ages.”