While study results have been conflicting for decades, a large study that has looked at thousands of Americans born between 1885 and 1980 reveals that well-being increases with age. However, overall happiness can be dependent on when a person is born.

Past studies have compared older adults with middle aged and young adults, and have sometimes found that older adults are not as happy. This study, published in Psychological Science, however, looked specifically at the age and different life experiences of the participants. The researchers found that well-being increases over everyone’s lifetime. Though people who have lived through severe hardship, like the Great Depression may begin life less happy than those who have not been through such difficult times, it does not have to have a long-term negative effect.  These findings may help to explain why past studies have found contradictory results – that tough times can influence a generation’s happiness for the rest of their lives. Nevertheless, the new study found that well-being increases over everyone’s lifetime, even for those who experience adversity early on. The good news is that we can look forward to feeling more content as we get older……   Scientific American Mind     May/June 2013

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