Arthur Stone, a professor of psychiatry at Stony Brook University tracked the emotions of some 340,000 adults and then published those findings in the Proceedings of The national Academy of Sciences: Happiness, in a general way, improves as one gets older.
Of the 340,000 people studied, on average, people get happier with age. Professor Stone replicated work that’s been done showing a particular pattern over age in what’s called ‘life satisfaction.’ The researchers discovered that in asking about personal satisfaction, there is a U-shaped relationship with age. Answers showed that in general, people are least satisfied with life in middle age or around the 50’s and are most satisfied in their 20’s and in their 70’s and early 80’s.
It may seem obvious that someone in their 20’s would feel satisfied, as you’re looking to achieve things in life with a forward-looking positivity, but this is especially puzzling in the phase of increasing levels of illness as one gets older. One of the big theories comes from Laura Carstensen at Stanford University. Her view is this- when you get older, you know where you are in life. You stop looking forward quite so much and you start focusing on smaller things in life, like being with friends and families or hobbies or volunteering that bring you immediate satisfaction. You savor the day at hand.
(2010 National Public Radio)