When are people happiest in their lives? Over the years, a great deal of research has been done on this ostensibly straightforward subject, yet a firm solution has long eluded researchers.
In a new study based on 443 samples from longitudinal studies including 460,902 participants, researchers analyzed trends in subjective well-being over the lifespan.
Professor Susanne Bücker stated that researchers in this study “focused on changes in three central components of subjective well-being: life satisfaction, positive emotional states, and negative emotional states.”
The study’s results show that life satisfaction dropped between the ages of nine and 16, then somewhat rose until the age of 70, before dropping once again until the age of 96.
Negative emotional states fluctuated slightly between ages nine and 22, then decreased until age 60, before increasing once more, while positive emotional states exhibited a continuous decline from age nine to age 94.
The scientist stressed that the minor decrease in life satisfaction between the ages of nine and 16 is attributed to changes in the body and social life that occur during puberty, noting that from young adulthood onward, satisfaction increases again, while from childhood into late adulthood, sentiments of happiness tend to diminish.
Bücker also underlined that all aspects of subjective well-being appeared to deteriorate rather than improve in extremely late adulthood, noting that “this could be related to the fact that in very old people, physical performance decreases, health often deteriorates, and social contacts diminish; not least because their peers pass away.”
The researcher concluded that this study emphasizes the importance of taking into account and promoting subjective well-being across the lifespan. The study’s findings may also offer important direction for the launch of intervention programs, particularly those aimed at preserving or enhancing subjective well-being in later life.