Are you happy? Very happy? If you’re in your 30s or older, a new study has found that you’re less likely to answer “yes” than your parents were.
The findings, being published online Thursday in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, come on the heels of another recent report that found that death rates of middle-aged white Americans have been rising, largely due to suicide and substance abuse.
“Age is supposed to bring happiness and contentment. For that not to be true anymore is somewhat shocking,” says Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State University who is the study’s lead author. She also wrote the book “Generation Me,” a look at young adults and the attitudes and influences that have helped shape them.
Starting with data in the early 1970s, Twenge and her colleagues found that adults 30 and older used to be happier than younger adults and teens. But that “happiness advantage” has steadily declined as the older adults have expressed less satisfaction with their lives and the younger cohort has gotten a little happier.
Other experts who study happiness say the findings fit with their own research. They attribute the shift to everything from growing financial pressures – and what some call “economic insecurity” – to the fact that real life has been a rude awakening for a generation of young adults who were told they could do anything and are discovering that often isn’t true.