Millennials may have full heads of hair, smooth skin, and more able bodies on Baby Boomers and the elderly, but that hasn’t translated into happiness.
A recent study from the University of California found 20-something year olds are much less happy than older adults, despite the gift of youth.
Despite fading cognitive and physical attributes in older people, their mental health is formidable, steadily improving right up until life’s end. Mental health includes their mood, well-being, and ability to cope with stressors.
A random sample of 1,546 people in the San Diego area, ranging from ages 21-100, were examined for the study. They answered questions pertaining to happiness: how satisfied they feel, and their levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.
“Participants reported that they felt better about themselves and their lives year upon year, decade after decade,” senior author Dr. Dilip Jeste, professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and Director of the Center on Healthy Aging at U.C. San Diego, said in the report.
While there hasn’t been an identified cause as to why well-being seems to improve in Part Two of life, Jeste says the study’s findings are “linear and substantial.” The highest levels of stress, and symptoms of depression and anxiety, were most prominent in adults in their 20s and 30s.
“This ‘fountain of youth’ period is associated with far worse levels of psychological well-being than any other period of adulthood,” he said.
The wisdom that (usually) comes with old age could be a factor, Jeste hypothesized. Other studies have found older people can handle emotions and complex decision making, as well as retaining fewer negative emotions and memories.
As Jeste puts it, older adults know “not to sweat out the little things,” as they now recognize “a lot of previously big things become little.”