Happiness begins at 50: Scientists

Last Updated: May 18, 2010, 15:31 PM IST

London: For many, the age of 50 may be the beginning of the end, but a group of scientists claim the good life begins only when people reach their fifties.

Despite increased risk of death and disease, it seemed that people in their fifties worry less, ignore the negatives and accentuate the positives, according to scientists at Stony Brook University, New York.

The researchers said that when people reach the landmark age, their stress, anger and worry fade gradually and feelings of happiness start to surge, the Telegraph reported.

Arthur Stone, one of the authors of the study, said their findings were "striking".

"You would think as chronic illness threatens life would get worse but that is not the case because people don`t focus on the threats," he said.

"They focus on the good things in life like family and friends."

For their study, the researchers surveyed over 340,000 American men and women aged between 18 and 85 and found overall feelings of wellbeing improve as we pass middle age.

They noticed that positive and negative emotions varied with age similarly in both sexes -- although women reported greater stress, worry and sadness at all ages.

Stress and anger reduced after people reached their early 20s with worry declining after the age of fifty, they said

Variables such as having young children, being unemployed, or being single did not affect age-related patterns of well being, they found.

The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that levels of stress, worry and anger all dropped significantly in the fifties and levels of happiness and enjoyment increased.

The only feeling that remained constant was that of sadness. But, overall feelings of well being increased in the fifties all the way up to the eighties, it was discovered.

According to the researchers, older people also have an increased ability to self-regulate their emotions and view their situations positively and recall fewer negative memories than younger adults.

They said: "They are also in accord with a `positivity effect` wherein older people recall fewer negative memories than younger adults and with the possibility older adults are more effective at regulating their emotions than younger adults."

Previous studies have shown increased life expectancy and widespread early retirement has created a much greater emphasis on "quality of life" among men and women in their fifties.

It helped many more fiftysomethings to see themselves as young and are adopting hedonistic attitudes as they imitate younger ways of living.

The latest findings back up those of a British study that showed that happiness is U-shaped over life, being at its highest in the young and old and bottoming out in middle age.

This was thought to be because people begin to accept their limitations in their later life and were just happy to be alive.

PTI

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