The Economist Leader: Why, beyond middle age, people get happier as they get older

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ask people how they feel about getting older, and they will probably reply in the same vein as Maurice Chevalier: “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.” Stiffening joints, weakening muscles, fading eyesight and the clouding of memory, coupled with the modern world’s careless contempt for the old, seem a fearful prospect—better than death, perhaps, but not much. Yet mankind is wrong to dread ageing. Life is not a long slow decline from sunlit uplands towards the valley of death. It is, rather, a U-bend.

When people start out on adult life, they are, on average, pretty cheerful. Things go downhill from youth to middle age until they reach a nadir commonly known as the mid-life crisis. So far, so familiar. The surprising part happens after that. Although as people move towards old age they lose things they treasure—vitality, mental sharpness and looks—they also gain what people spend their lives pursuing: happiness.

This curious finding has emerged from a new branch of economics that seeks a more satisfactory measure than money of human well-being.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyMiddle AgePsychology

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Posted December 20, 2010 at 6:30 am

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