How are you feeling? If you’re over 50, despite that kink in your back, bad knee and night blindness, chances are you are pretty happy today.
A sense of well-being increases over our lifetimes, according to a 2013 study that collected 30 years of data on thousands of Americans born between 1885 and 1980.
Variables such as health, wealth, gender, ethnicity and education were controlled by researchers, indicating that happiness was not a simple consequence of propitious external circumstances.
Scientific American reports a less contented early life for those who grew up during times of great strife, such as war or the Great Depression. In fact, an entire generation can be affected by societal or cultural difficulties encountered early on.
Two personality types were seen to influence our overall wellbeing: neuroticism and extroversion. Neuroticism, characterized by worry, anxiety and anger, is found to be a stable personality trait that correlates with lower levels of overall happiness, reported the Economist.
But that guy at the party with the lampshade on his head? It looks like he’ll be dancing on the tables for the foreseeable future. There is a direct correlation between extroversion and lifelong happiness.
While about 50 percent of our merriness can be attributed to genetic makeup, according to Dr. Alexander Weiss of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, relationships, health and career are major factors.
Weiss based this observation on reviewing "personality and happiness data on more than 900 twin pairs," thereby determining which common genes showed personality traits that lead to happiness.
Women, who are slightly more prone to depression than men, still tend to report more general happiness.
According to the 2013 study, mid-life unhappiness is backed up by science, with 46 years old being the nadir of happiness, the global age when most of us struggle with conflicted feelings about goals not yet met, and our diminishing future.
Participants in the study showed the following pattern of happiness throughout their lifetimes:
- From ages 20 to 30, worry decreases.