Happiness in Your Fifties

“You know you’re 50 when the only silver lining you can see is on your head,” says Melanie White.

Happy EmoticonThe latest studies on happiness seem to confirm that viewpoint. When I first heard about the U-shaped happiness curve, I didn’t want to believe it. Say it isn’t so!

It seems that despite stereotypes of cranky old people and whiny young adults, the oldest Americans (age 65 and up) are the happiest, followed by young adults (ages 18 to 29), followed by those ages 33 to 44.

On the other hand, those ages 45 to 64 consistently report the lowest levels of happiness with startlingly high rates of depression. A 2012 AARP study confirmed there is a U-shaped happiness curve with the early 50s as the lowest point of well-being.

Turns out nothing much as changed in the last few years. The latest study from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) a couple of weeks ago once again confirms that those ages 40 to 59 have the lowest levels of life satisfaction and the highest levels of anxiety.

The study was based on 300,000 adults in the UK and found that happiness and life satisfaction plummeted in respondents aged 35 and over. The trend reverses once respondents hit 60, with people aged 65-79 reporting the average highest levels of personal well-being.

It seems even people over 90 are happier than us. Bummer.

The report suggests that the responsibilities of looking after young children and aging parents at the same time could be taking a toll. I get that. At age 55, I’ve recently faced many challenges. That has included caring for my mother who had Lewy Body dementia (a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) which turned out to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Last June, my Mom passed away and I had to deal with the wide variety of emotions that accompany the grieving process. In fact, I have to confess, these past few years have tested me like never before and happiness seems elusive at times. However, I’m not giving up and neither should you!

The ONS suggested that the older generation are cut from a different cloth and tend to appreciate life more. That the benefit of age and wisdom changes the way we look at things. We baby boomers Turns out we can learn a thing or two from the older generation ahead of us. My very first blog posting, Why Older People Are Happier than Baby Boomers, was on this very subject.

Don’t gasp, but maybe it’s time for our authority-averse, rebellious boomer generation to change our attitude about our elders. Perhaps we can learn something from the generation that precedes us.

For sure, we are not powerless to change these statistics. Paul Dolan, author of the bestselling Happiness By Design and professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics, said patterns can be broken by taking care to enjoy the little things in life.

“I think too much is being made of the U-shape dip [that happens in the 40s and 50s],” he said. “It’s all about actually changing what you do to do more of the things we like – listen to music, go outdoors, meet friends and new people. If everybody did that every day we’d be a lot happier.”

Good advice. If you’d like a few more happiness tips, click below to visit some of my blogs on the subject:

Happiness as Easy as 1-2-3

How Happiness Changes as We Age

Embrace Your Spiritual Side

75-Year Long Study Reveals Secret to Happiness

Five Happy Snoopy Quotes

How Exercise Makes You Happier

Aim for Fulfillment not Happiness

The Happiest Country in the World

Ten Ways to Start Your Morning Right

How Problems Can Lead You to Happiness

Designing a Happy Life

Taking Personal Responsibility Ticket to Happiness

International Day of Happiness Ideas

What Are Your Life’s Happiest Moments?

Benefits of a Happy Jar

Free Apps to Help You Get Happy

Top 10 Movies to Make You Feel Happy

Five Reasons You May Be Unhappy

How to Find Happiness in Retirement

Why You Can Celebrate Turning 50

Five Ways to Become a Happy-Go-Lucky Person

That’s a sample, but feel free to check out my other articles on happiness as well. What are your tips for finding happiness? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of farconville at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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2 Responses

  1. Cat Michaels says:

    Julie, great research! It’s good to remember there is much to look forward to after being in the bottom of that “U” dip.

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