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Adults' happiness on the decline in U.S.

Researchers found adults over age 30 are not as happy as they used to be, but teens and young adults are happier than ever

Date:
November 5, 2015
Source:
San Diego State University
Summary:
Are you less happy than your parents were at the same age? It may not be all in your head. Researchers have found that adults over age 30 are not as happy as they used to be, but teens and young adults are happier than ever.
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Are you less happy than your parents were at the same age? It may not be all in your head. Researchers led by San Diego State University professor Jean M. Twenge found adults over age 30 are not as happy as they used to be, but teens and young adults are happier than ever.

Researchers -- including Ryne A. Sherman of Florida Atlantic University and Sonja Lyubomirsky of University of California, Riverside -- analyzed data from four nationally representative samples of 1.3 million Americans ages 13 to 96 taken from 1972 to 2014.

They found that after 2010, the age advantage for happiness found in prior research vanished. There is no longer a positive correlation between age and happiness among adults, and adults older than 30 are no longer significantly happier than those ages 18 to 29.

"Our current culture of pervasive technology, attention-seeking, and fleeting relationships is exciting and stimulating for teens and young adults, but may not provide the stability and sense of community that mature adults require," said Twenge, who is also the author of "Generation Me."

Data showed that 38 percent of adults older than 30 said they were "very happy" in the early 1970s, which shrunk to 32 percent in the 2010s. Twenty-eight percent of adults ages 18 to 29 said they were "very happy" in the early 1970s, versus 30 percent in the 2010s.

Over the same time, teens' happiness increased: 19 percent of 12th graders said they were "very happy" in the late 1970s, versus 23 percent in the 2010s.

"American culture has increasingly emphasized high expectations and following your dreams-- things that feel good when you're young," Twenge said. "However, the average mature adult has realized that their dreams might not be fulfilled, and less happiness is the inevitable result. Mature adults in previous eras might not have expected so much, but expectations are now so high they can't be met."

That drop in happiness occurred for both men and women, said Twenge. "A previous study in 2008 got quite a bit of attention when it found that women's happiness had declined relative to men's. We now find declines in both men's and women's happiness, especially after 2010."

The results were published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.


Story Source:

Materials provided by San Diego State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. M. Twenge, R. A. Sherman, S. Lyubomirsky. More Happiness for Young People and Less for Mature Adults: Time Period Differences in Subjective Well-Being in the United States, 1972-2014. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2015; DOI: 10.1177/1948550615602933

Cite This Page:

San Diego State University. "Adults' happiness on the decline in U.S: Researchers found adults over age 30 are not as happy as they used to be, but teens and young adults are happier than ever." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 November 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151105143547.htm>.
San Diego State University. (2015, November 5). Adults' happiness on the decline in U.S: Researchers found adults over age 30 are not as happy as they used to be, but teens and young adults are happier than ever. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151105143547.htm
San Diego State University. "Adults' happiness on the decline in U.S: Researchers found adults over age 30 are not as happy as they used to be, but teens and young adults are happier than ever." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151105143547.htm (accessed May 24, 2017).

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