Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why are older people happier?

Date:
January 12, 2012
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Older people tend to be happier. But why? Some psychologists believe that cognitive processes are responsible -- in particular, focusing on and remembering positive events and leaving behind negative ones; those processes, they think, help older people regulate their emotions, letting them view life in a sunnier light.

Older people tend to be happier. But why? Some psychologists believe that cognitive processes are responsible -- in particular, focusing on and remembering positive events and leaving behind negative ones; those processes, they think, help older people regulate their emotions, letting them view life in a sunnier light. "There is a lot of good theory about this age difference in happiness," says psychologist Derek M. Isaacowitz of Northeastern University, "but much of the research does not provide direct evidence" of the links between such phenomena and actual happiness.

Related Articles


In a new article in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, Isaacowitz and the late Fredda Blanchard-Fields of Georgia Institute of Technology argue for more rigorous research.

Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less. Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods -- for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals, and hew their goals toward greater wellbeing.

What's missing, say the authors, are consistently demonstrated direct links between these strategies and phenomena and changes of mood for the better. One reason, Isaacowitz suggests, is that lab tests yield results that are not straightforward. "When we try to use those cognitive processes to predict change of mood, they don't always do so," he explains. "Sometimes looking at positive pictures doesn't make people feel better." A closer review of the literature also reveals contradictions. Some people -- younger ones, for instance -- may make themselves feel better by accentuating the negative in others' situations or characteristics. And whereas some psychologists find that high scores on certain cognitive tests correlate in older people with the ability to keep their spirits up, other researchers hypothesize that happiness in later life is an effect of cognitive losses -- which force older people to concentrate on simpler, happier thoughts.

More rigorous methods probably won't overthrow the current theories, says Isaacowitz, but they will complicate the picture. "It won't be as easy to say old people are happier. But even if they are happier on average, we still want to know in what situations does this particular strategy make this particular person with these particular qualities or strengths feel good."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Derek M. Isaacowitz and Fredda Blanchard-Fields. Linking Process and Outcome in the Study of Emotion and Aging. Perspectives on Psychological Science, January 2012 vol. 7 no. 1 3-17 DOI: 10.1177/1745691611424750

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Why are older people happier?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120106135950.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2012, January 12). Why are older people happier?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120106135950.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Why are older people happier?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120106135950.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Bupa Eyes India Healthcare Opportunities

Bupa Eyes India Healthcare Opportunities

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Bupa is hoping to expand in India&apos;s fast-growing health insurance market, once a rule change on foreign investment is implemented. The British private healthcare group&apos;s CEO tells Grace Pascoe why it&apos;s so keen on the new opportunity. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in Your Pocket Is Getting Smarter

Doctor in Your Pocket Is Getting Smarter

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Mobile apps are turning smartphones into a personal doctors, with users able to measure heart rate, blood pressure and even blood sugar. But will it change our behaviour? Ivor Bennett reports from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AbbVie Inks $21B Deal To Buy Cancer Drugmaker Pharmacyclics

AbbVie Inks $21B Deal To Buy Cancer Drugmaker Pharmacyclics

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) AbbVie announced Wednesday it will buy cancer drugmaker Pharmacyclics in a $21 billion deal. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Toddlers Drinking Coffee? Why You Shouldn't Share Your Joe

Toddlers Drinking Coffee? Why You Shouldn't Share Your Joe

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) A survey of Boston mothers and toddlers found that 15 percent of two-year-olds drink coffee and 2.5 percent of 1-year-olds. Video provided by Newsy
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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