London: People become happier and more positive as they age, says a new study contradicting popular beliefs about grumpy old men and women.
The study of more than 10,000 people in Britain and the US found that although physical quality of life goes down after middle age, mental satisfaction increases.
The findings adds support to a past study that happiness levels form a U-curve, hitting their low point at around 45, then rising.
In the study, researchers from the University of Warwick analysed the participants` lifestyle and health patterns and their links to mental and physical quality of life and health status. Quality of life was evaluated using eight factors including perception of general health, pain, social functioning and mental health.
The researchers found that people reported better mental quality of life as they aged, despite a decrease in their physical abilities.
They said that being overweight or obese did not have a significant impact on levels of mental well-being. Those with a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30, putting them in the obese category, showed similar mental quality of life levels to those considered to be a healthy weight.
Dr Saverio Stranges, who led the study, said: "It`s obvious that people`s physical quality of life deteriorates as they age, but what is interesting is that their mental well-being doesn?t also deteriorate ? in fact it increases.
"We suggest that this could be due to better coping abilities, an interpretation supported by previous research showing older people tend to have internal mechanisms to deal better with hardship or negative circumstances than those who are younger," he said.
"It could also be due to a lowering of expectations from life, with older people less likely to put pressure on themselves in the personal and professional spheres."
The study also found that those who slept between six and eight hours per day tended to have better physical and mental health scores than those who slept on average fewer than six or more than eight hours.