Last summer, a survey published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry highlighted the age paradox. It is the fact that the older you get, the happier you are. Contrary to popular belief, the gradual loss of independence does not make people more and more depressed.
The survey was conducted with 15,000 people living in San Diego, aged 21 to 99. The people in their twenties were the most stressed and depressed, while the 90+ were the happiest. Even though physical health declines with age, mental health (mood, feeling of well-being, stress management) improves.
« The older people are happier, more satisfied, less depressed, less nervous and less stressed than the younger ones. » explained Dilip Jeste Director for Healthy Aging and Senior Care, UC San Diego and author of the survey.
Is that a true paradox?
According to Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford centre, this is not a paradox. In her opinion, when we are young, our objectives are based on success and social fulfilment, the desire to always have more than what we have. With experience, adults know that life is made up of incidents, so they keep it in perspective: a car incident is not the end of the world, a missed call will not ruin your life. They also realize that life is fragile, that they are not invincible.
With age, these objectives are reoriented towards well-being: engage into meaningful activities and relationships with others; and objectives which are more easily achievable, that reduce the risk of disappointment and negative emotions. With age, we also become wiser, more empathetic and more compassionate. We know ourselves better, we make decisions that better meet our expectations, and open up to new ideas and to others.
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