Seniors and Happiness
New researches predict that in the course of the following decade average age of the nation is likely to increase. There is no surprise here – a great number of baby-boomers have been gradually retiring and will continue doing so in the future. Besides, with the advances in technology, medical care and general level of living people are likely to live longer and better.
Interesting question is whether they become also happier? There are many ideas on this account.
There are studies that find direct correlation between old age and depression, which in turn, correlates with loneliness and unhappiness. However, the number of theories that quite contradict the statement are also numerous.
One of such theories states that elderly people over 65 years old are usually more content if they used to have happier lives. They show much higher levels of satisfaction with life in general than their more depressed peers. Such are the conclusions made in the course of the study carried out by the University of Granada that was introduced in the “Journal of Happiness Studies”.
The research actually aimed at examining people over 65 years old taking into consideration their present state and well-being as well as the past. The study covered 154 people of both sexes from different backgrounds and social positions from 65 to 95. The selection was really representative and included individuals that lived independently, with families and in different nursing facilities.
Among interesting notices from the research were this one: people from residential homes are healthier, less stressed and more fit; however, they are less independent and spend less time being involved in different activities, see their family less often and are visited less regularly.
One of the most important conclusions that the initiators of the study outline is that in order to be able to create satisfactory environment for the elderly it is necessary to understand the correlation between happiness and what brings it. By making such things clear, it is easier to take steps in the right direction. By understanding what happiness meant on earlier stages of life – or didn’t, it is easier to improve the situation in senior years and start accepting this time as “late adulthood” instead of the end.
Another study highlighted in Psychological Science carried out by Angelina Sutin (Florida State University College of Medicine) was based on the comparison of two major groups of people: the first was aged around 70 and was recently interviewed; the data about the second was drawn from the reports of 40-50 year olds from the 70s.
The results appeared to be very curious, again. The research proved to a very great extent that the level of contentment in seniors is not directly correlated to ageing; however, it directly depended on initial differences in happiness, in other words, people who were happier when they were younger are happier when they grow old. The reasons for initial unhappiness can also be traced and there is a tendency – for example, Great Depression generation are much more prone to depression now when they are closing to their senior age.
When it comes to the U.S. senior happiness map in not homogeneous. Most happy seniors can be found in:
- South Dakota,
- and Iowa;
while senior citizens of
- Kentucky, West Virginia,
- and Ohio are the least happy.
Besides, those who age in Florida range higher than others in terms of wellbeing, those from New Mexico are lucky to have a sense of purpose, and North Dakota are the pretty well-off, if compared to seniors from other states.
General situation around elderly looks not that bad: people over 55 are no longer in need to be constantly worried about earnings and kids upbringing, thus, they have more time and opportunities. Seniors also tend to get less depressed up to the age of 64 and less inclined to obesity (which is quite curious).
Seniors tend to stop being stressed all the time and less anxious. With better financial background than in their younger years they understand that they have more doors opened in terms of recreation and free time; despite the fact that sport activities decrease in popularity due to obvious health reasons.
There are also other studies that seem to prove that age brings more happiness than it was believed before. This especially relates to such countries as the U.S. where social and economical levels are much higher than in developing countries. Besides, there are also such factors that contribute greatly – wisdom and experience; they cannot be overlooked. These two provide basis for the feeling of contentment to a great extent.
Surely, such studies are several among many and they do not cover all the issues that relate to happiness and growing old, nor do they take into consideration all the factors that either contribute to or interfere with contentment. Besides, there are countries where happiness and depression have the same ratings – and they are pretty high. Take Sweden, or Norway, for instance. They score the highest among the happiest countries on the planet; yet they also have the highest suicide rates either. And it looks like one does not interfere with the other at all.
Thus, getting back to the question whether old age is likely to bring more happiness – or not, there is only one definite answer: we’ll see.