Posted by: Admin | January 16, 2011

The only way is up!

It’s official – life begins to pick up at 46!

According to the Economist (average reader age: 47), life is not so much a downward curve into senility from middle age. but rather a “U” bend. That defies gravity, if you ask me, so I read on.

The theory goes that we all start off as pretty cheerful, on the whole, but that this is eroded from youth onwards until we reach rock bottom – the mid-life crisis. Conventional wisdom has it that it’s all downhill from there. We lose our looks, our vitality and mental sharpness to varying degrees – what’s not to be miserable about? Well, according to the findings emerging from a study conducted by a new branch of economics, not a bit of it. Once you reach your mid-forties you are on your way to gaining that elusive lifetime goal: happiness.

The new economics measures happiness rather than money as a measure for human well-being. The standard bearer for this measure has been Bhutan where all new policies are assessed for GNH – Gross National Happiness. Then in 2008 top conventional economists, Amyarta Sen and Joseph Stiglitz were directed by French premier, Nicolas Sarkozy, to devise a way of measuring national contentment other than GNP, which measures wealth. Now the British Government have begun to collect data on well-being. Age, of course, is not the only indicator for happiness: personality type, gender, education, marital status, cultural background: all play a part.The full article can be read by clicking here

Age is one of the more surprising findings. According to the Economist, “People are least happy in their 40s and early 50s. They reach a nadir at a global average of 46” Conversely, depression peaks at 46. One recent study from Princeton University concludes: “Enjoyment and happiness dip in middle age, then pick up; stress rises during the early 20s, then falls sharply; worry peaks in middle age, and falls sharply thereafter; anger declines throughout life; sadness rises slightly in middle age, and falls thereafter.”

Why? The answer, it seems, is down to experience and acceptance. Whilst they experience the same amount of sadness in reaction to distressing situations, older people generally react more philosophically, showing less anger and being less judgemental. They have also generally come to accept their limitations and tailor their ambitions accordingly. Along with life changes, such as no longer being responsible for children, they are generally less stressed than when younger, which also has a positive impact on health.

Of course, none of this is new, but it does bring a positive slant to institutional views of ageing. It will be interesting to see how the Government will utilise its data on GNH. Certainly, it should make them think more roundly about employment and services for the elderly.

For my part, these studies simply confirm what I have long suspected, but so far have only hoped to be true: the gloom that dogged my forties is unlikely to reappear as I move into my fifties. The future might be grey, but it’s bright nonetheless!



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