Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Older People Are Nation's Happiest: Baby Boomers Less Happy Than Other Generational Groups

Date:
April 19, 2008
Source:
University of Chicago
Summary:
Americans grow happier as they grow older, according to a new study that is one of the most thorough examinations of happiness ever done in America. The study also found that baby boomers are not as content as other generations, African Americans are less happy than whites, men are less happy than women, happiness can rise and fall between eras, and that, with age the differences narrow.

Americans grow happier as they grow older.
Credit: iStockphoto/Nicholas Monu

Americans grow happier as they grow older, according to a University of Chicago study that is one of the most thorough examinations of happiness ever done in America.

The study also found that baby boomers are not as content as other generations, African Americans are less happy than whites, men are less happy than women, happiness can rise and fall between eras, and that, with age the differences narrow.

"Understanding happiness is important to understanding quality of life. The happiness measure is a guide to how well society is meeting people's needs," said Yang Yang, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago and author of the new article.

The research relies on data that social scientists consider the gold standard of happiness research--responses to questions about contentment with overall life gathered in the General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center, which the National Science Foundation supports at the University of Chicago.

Since 1972, the GSS has asked a cross section of Americans the same 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 question was administered in face-to-face interviews of population samples that ranged from about 1,500 to 3,000.

Yang charted happiness across age and racial groups and found that among 18-year-olds, white women are the happiest, with a 33 percent probability of being very happy, followed by white men (28 percent), black women (18 percent) and black men (15 percent).

Differences vanish over time, however, as happiness increases. Black men and black women have just more than a 50 percent chance of being very happy by their late 80s, while white men and white women are close behind.

The increase in happiness with age is consistent with the "age as maturity hypothesis," Yang said. With age comes positive psychosocial traits, such as self-integration and self-esteem; these signs of maturity could contribute to a better sense of overall well-being. Second, group differences in happiness decrease with age due to the equalization of resources that contribute to happiness, such as access to health care, Medicare and Medicaid, and the loss of social support due to the deaths of spouses and friends, Yang added.

The length of the survey also helped determine how different people in the same generational group fared. The baby boom generation (born from 1946-1964) were the least happy among those surveyed.

"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," Yang said.

On another measure, Yang found that happiness in the country is not static. Looking over the study's 33-year period, she noticed definite upticks when the nation flourished economically. For example, she found that 1995 was a very good year on the happiness scale.

The article "Social Inequalities in Happiness in the United States, 1972-2004: An Age-Period-Cohort Analysis," is published in the April issue of the American Sociological Review, the official journal of the American Sociological Association.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago. "Older People Are Nation's Happiest: Baby Boomers Less Happy Than Other Generational Groups." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080416110114.htm>.
University of Chicago. (2008, April 19). Older People Are Nation's Happiest: Baby Boomers Less Happy Than Other Generational Groups. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080416110114.htm
University of Chicago. "Older People Are Nation's Happiest: Baby Boomers Less Happy Than Other Generational Groups." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080416110114.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins