Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Happiness increases with age, across generations: But your overall level of well-being depends on when you were born

Date:
February 6, 2013
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Psychological well-being has been linked to many important life outcomes, including career success, relationship satisfaction, and even health. But it's not clear how feelings of well-being change as we age, as different studies have provided evidence for various trends over time. A new report reveals that self-reported feelings of well-being tend to increase with age, but that a person's overall level of well-being depends on when he or she was born.

Self-reported feelings of well-being tend to increase with age.
Credit: Kurhan / Fotolia

Psychological well-being has been linked to many important life outcomes, including career success, relationship satisfaction, and even health. But it's not clear how feelings of well-being change as we age, as different studies have provided evidence for various trends over time.

Related Articles


A new report published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveals that self-reported feelings of well-being tend to increase with age, but that a person's overall level of well-being depends on when he or she was born.

Psychological scientist Angelina R. Sutin of Florida State University College of Medicine conducted the study while at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she remains a guest researcher. She and colleagues at NIA predicted that people in the same "birth cohort" -- born around the same time -- may have had unique experiences that shape the way they evaluate happiness and optimism. They hypothesized that the level of well-being a person reports would, therefore, vary according to his or her birth year.

Using two large-scale longitudinal studies, NIH's Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) and the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Sutin and colleagues looked at data from several thousand people over 30 years, including over 10,000 reports on well-being, health, and other factors.

When the researchers analyzed the data across the whole pool of participants, older adults had lower levels of well-being than younger and middle-aged adults.

But when Sutin and her colleagues analyzed the same data while taking birth cohort into account, a different trend appeared: Life satisfaction increased over the participants' lifetimes. This trend remained even after factors like health, medication, sex, ethnicity, and education were taken into account.

So what explains the different results?

While life satisfaction increased with age for each cohort, older birth cohorts -- especially people born between 1885 and 1925 -- started off with lower levels of well-being in comparison to people born more recently. Looking at life satisfaction across all of the participants, regardless of when they were born, obscures the fact that each cohort actually shows the same underlying trend.

Sutin and colleagues point out that the level of well-being of cohorts born in the early part of the 20th century, particularly those who lived through the Great Depression, was substantially lower than the level of well-being of cohorts who grew up during more prosperous times. The greater well-being of more recent cohorts could be the result of economic prosperity, increased educational opportunities, and the expansion of social and public programs over the latter half of the 20th century.

According to the researchers, these findings may have important implications for today's younger generations.

"As young adults today enter a stagnant workforce, the challenges of high unemployment may have implications for their well-being that long outlast the period of joblessness. Economic turmoil may impede psychological, as well as financial, growth even decades after times get better."

Co-authors on this research include Antonio Terracciano also of Florida State University College of Medicine and a guest researcher at the NIA; Yuri Milaneschi of the National Institute on Aging and VU University Medical Center; and Yang An, Luigi Ferrucci and Alan B. Zonderman of the National Institute on Aging, NIH.

This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health.


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. A. R. Sutin, A. Terracciano, Y. Milaneschi, Y. An, L. Ferrucci, A. B. Zonderman. The Effect of Birth Cohort on Well-Being: The Legacy of Economic Hard Times. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797612459658

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Happiness increases with age, across generations: But your overall level of well-being depends on when you were born." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130206141647.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2013, February 6). Happiness increases with age, across generations: But your overall level of well-being depends on when you were born. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130206141647.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Happiness increases with age, across generations: But your overall level of well-being depends on when you were born." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130206141647.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Melafind: Spotting Melanoma Without a Biopsy

Melafind: Spotting Melanoma Without a Biopsy

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) The MelaFind device is a pain-free way to check suspicious moles for melanoma, without the need for a biopsy. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Battling Multiple Myeloma

Battling Multiple Myeloma

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) The answer isn’t always found in new drugs – repurposing an ‘old’ drug that could mean better multiple myeloma treatment, and hope. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chronic Inflammation and Prostate Cancer

Chronic Inflammation and Prostate Cancer

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) New information that is linking chronic inflammation in the prostate and prostate cancer, which may help doctors and patients prevent cancer in the future. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sickle Cell: Stopping Kids’ Silent Strokes

Sickle Cell: Stopping Kids’ Silent Strokes

Ivanhoe (Oct. 31, 2014) Blood transfusions are proving crucial to young sickle cell patients by helping prevent strokes, even when there is no outward sign of brain injury. Video provided by Ivanhoe
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