Happiness Is Aging the Secret to Happiness? By Mark Stibich, PhD Mark Stibich, PhD Mark Stibich, PhD, FIDSA, is a behavior change expert with experience helping individuals make lasting lifestyle improvements. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 28, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print MoMo Productions / Getty Images Happiness and age are related, but not in the way you might think. For the most part, our culture is youth-driven, so we assume that the young and beautiful also happen to be the happiest. Young people who have time on their side may appear happy, but the notion that they are happier isn't necessarily true. Happiness actually may increase with age. It may be unfathomable for some young people to think of their grandparents as being happier than they are, but research shows that Americans actually get happier as they age despite their health conditions and other problems that arise. Before we celebrate, though, let's take a look at the evidence on aging and happiness. Trends in Happiness Let's face it: Research related to happiness is filled with judgments and subjectivity because happiness is subjective. How can you be sure a research participant who says, "I'm pretty happy" truly is happy? Maybe they're content with less? Maybe their happiness is based on material possessions? Maybe each generation has different expectations of happiness? Researchers needed to find a way around these kinds of problems. Luckily, sociologists have consistently conducted more than 50,000 interviews since 1972 for the General Social Survey, a sociological survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The survey, which is open to the public, provides a wealth of insights into our society and measures happiness over time. By comparing individuals of different age groups over time within the same year, researchers were able to get around some of these limitations, and what they found is that happiness does increase with age. Aging America: A Happy Place "How happy are you?" That is the big question researchers ask year after year. Not only did researchers find that older people tend to be happier, but that happiness is not something older participants have had all their lives. In other words, as people get older, say starting at age 50, happiness comes to them. As the media continue to warn us about the dangers of an aging America, keep this in mind: An aging America may be the happiest America we have ever seen. Perhaps this is because of the wisdom that comes with age or because older people adjust their expectations in life. Whatever the reason, there is solid evidence that older Americans are truly happier than younger ones. Press Play for Advice On Healthy Aging Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring actress, model, and bestselling author Brooke Shields, shares how to embrace getting older with a positive mindset. Click below to listen now. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts How to Maximize Your Happiness Improve your own happiness by ignoring the societal norm that youth = happiness. Allow yourself to feel happy as you age. Don't get caught up in worrying about the small stuff. Take good care of your health and, most importantly, let yourself go. Don't think that you have to act your age. Here are some more tips to keep you active, happy and having fun as you age: Exercise for more energy. Be social for healthy aging. Live long, have fun, play. Play games for brain fitness. 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Yang Y. Social inequalities in happiness in the United States, 1972 to 2004: an age-period-cohort analysis. Am Sociol Rev. 2008;73(2):204-226. doi:10.1177/000312240807300202 See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Happiness Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.