There’s good news and bad news for older men. You’ll experience increasing happiness after your early 50s — but that’ll only last until you’re ready to retire.
Researchers at Boston University and Oregon State University wanted to measure how happiness and emotions change in men as they grow older. They looked at over 1,300 men between the ages of 53 and 85 and studied the mens’ perceptions of their happiness.
Around 80 percent of men felt steadily increasing happiness starting in their early 50s until they were about 65 or 70, when their happiness took a downward turn. But 20 percent of men reported an upswing in their happiness after 65 or 70. Researchers say happiness levels in older age are dictated by how people react to life’s upsets.
“In general, life gets better as you age in the sense that older adults on average have fewer hassles — and respond to them better — than younger adults,” lead author Carolyn Aldwin of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State said in a release. “But once you turn 70, how you react to these hassles changes and may be dependent on your resources of your situation in life.”
It’s around this age that men might find themselves with worsening physical and cognitive health, as well as the loss of loved ones, the researchers said. The study wanted to compare the three common models of aging to find out which one holds true. One model states happiness in generally static throughout life other than major life events, the second that happiness increases with age, and the third that happiness rapidly declines around age 80.
What they found was a bit of truth to each. “Some older people continue to find sources of happiness late in life despite dealing with family losses, declining health, or a lack of resources. You may lose a parent, but gain a grandchild. The kids may leave the house, but you bask in their accomplishments as adults,” Aldwin said.
Previous studies have tried to pinpoint the exact age that we’re happiest. A study published by the London School of Economics determined people are happiest at ages 23 and 69, while unhappiest at 55. Another Gallup poll showed Americans reported being happiest between 75 and 79 and unhappiest between 40 and 44.
Ultimately, it all depends on your perception and how you react to hardship, Aldwin said. Everyone faces difficulties differently, meaning we can’t pin down an exact pattern for everyone.