The Happiest Age Group, Revealed

CC BY 2.0. Will Clayton

What a drag it is getting old? Think again!

In our seriously youth-obsessed culture, that moment when you realize, “jeez, I’m getting old” can hit you like a bucket of cold water in the face. The years just keep coming and going – so regularly, so persistently – what’s up with that? The march of time is stubbornly perseverant; strict and obsessive even – it won’t even consider changing its pace or making a little detour here or there, alas!

But thankfully, it’s not all downhill once Peak Perfect Skin has been reached. And in fact, it gets better. And that’s not just feel-good advice coming from a writer looking to convince herself that getting old is “great” – I’ve got researchers backing me up here.

Sarah Young (ironically) at the Independent reports on a study and concludes that the “over-50’s are happier, wealthier and more carefree than they ever have been.” They’re taking up new hobbies and traveling; most of them feel younger both mentally and physically than their actual age. Sixty-one per cent said that they were enjoying life more because they had more time.

"Interestingly, since turning 50 more than half had been travelling, one in five planned to study a language and one in ten intended to learn how to play an instrument," Young writes.

And while that study was conducted with British participants, an earlier cross-cultural study of 10,000 subjects included residents from both the UK and the US; its conclusions were along the same lines. This research, written up in The Guardian, found that people reported better mental quality of life as they age; mental well-being increases, coping abilities are improved, and at this point we have, hopefully, learned to work with our strengths and weaknesses.

All of this is also supported by even more research which showed “that happiness is being young or old, with a particular low-point coming in the mid-40s when depression is likely to hit.” That dip in the mid-40s is interesting – researcher Andrew Oswald says that the likelihood of depression peaked at around 44.

“Only in their 50s do most people emerge from the low period,” says Oswald, “but encouragingly, by the time you are 70, if you are still physically fit then on average you are as happy and mentally healthy as a 20-year-old.”

So, the 50s are great, 70 is the new 20, and while the kids are snickering about the “old” people, the “old” people are delightedly planning their next vacation.