|Middle Agers Top The Misery U-Curve But Get Better, If They Survive|
|Living - Society|
|TS-Si News Service|
|Tuesday, 29 January 2008 19:00|
The authors found the same U-shape in happiness levels and life satisfaction by age for 72 countries. The findngs appear in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
Is Well-Being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle? Andrew Oswald and David Blanchflower. Social Science & Medicine. Forthcoming. ISSN: 0277-9536.
[ Abstract below / Full Text (PDF) ]
Economists Andrew Oswald (University of Warwick) and David Blanchflower (Dartmouth College) analyzed information on 500,000 randomly sampled Americans and West Europeans from the US General Social Surveys and the Eurobarometer Surveys. The data sample from the The World Values Survey gave samples of people in 80 countries.
The authors present evidence is provided for the existence of a similar U-shape through the life-course in East European, Latin American and Asian nations. The U-shape in age was found in a separate analysis of well-being (using regression equations) in 72 developed and developing nations. Using measures that are closer to psychiatric scores, they documented comparable well-being across the life cycle among a sample of 16,000 Europeans, and in reported depression and anxiety levels among 1 million U.K. citizens.
The authors also looked at the mental health levels of 16,000 Europeans, the depression and anxiety levels among a large sample of U.K. citizens. A sample of 1 million people from the UK showed that for both men and women the probability of depression peaks around 44 years of age.
The authors noted that American males seem to have become progressively less content with their lives. There was a significant difference between men and women. Unhappiness reached a peak at around 40 years of age for women and 50 years of age for men.
Andrew Oswald said: "Some people suffer more than others but in our data the average effect is large. It happens to men and women, to single and married people, to rich and poor, and to those with and without children. Nobody knows why we see this consistency."
"What causes this apparently U-shaped curve, and its similar shape in different parts of the developed and even often developing world, is unknown. However, one possibility is that individuals learn to adapt to their strengths and weaknesses, and in mid-life quell their infeasible aspirations. Another possibility is that cheerful people live systematically longer. A third possibility is that a kind of comparison process is at work in which people have seen similar-aged peers die and value more their own remaining years. Perhaps people somehow learn to count their blessings."
"It looks from the data like something happens deep inside humans. For the average person in the modern world, the dip in mental health and happiness comes on slowly, not suddenly in a single year. Only in their 50s do most people emerge from the low period. 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. Perhaps realizing that such feelings are completely normal in midlife might even help individuals survive this phase better."
Is Well-Being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle? Andrew Oswald and David Blanchflower. Social Science & Medicine. Forthcoming. ISSN: 0277-9536. [ Abstract below / Full Text (PDF) ]
Abstract. We present evidence that psychological well-being is U-shaped through life. A difficulty with research on this issue is that there are likely to be omitted cohort effects (earlier generations may have been born in, say, particularly good or bad times). First, using data on 500,000 randomly sampled Americans and West Europeans, the paper designs a test that can control for cohort effects. Holding other factors constant, we show that a typical individual’s happiness reaches its minimum -- on both sides of the
Atlantic and for both males and females -- in middle age. Second, evidence is provided for the existence of a similar U-shape through the life-course in East European, Latin American and Asian nations. Third, a U-shape in age is found in separate well-being regression equations in 72 developed and developing nations. Fourth, using measures that are closer to psychiatric scores, we document a comparable well-being curve across the life cycle in two other data sets: (i) in GHQ-N6 mental health levels among a sample of 16,000 Europeans, and (ii) in reported depression and anxiety levels among 1 million U.K. citizens. Fifth, we discuss some apparent exceptions, particularly in developing nations, to the U-shape. Sixth, we note that American male birth-cohorts seem to have become progressively less content with their lives. Our paper’s results are based on regression equations in which other influences, such as demographic variables and income, are held constant.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 February 2008 17:19|