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Does Happiness Increase in Old Age? 

A neon sign seen through reflective glass. The sign is neon letters in red, spelling the word "Happy"

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Longitudinal Evidence from 20 European Countries

Peer-reviewed research by: Christoph K. Becker and Dr Stefan T. Trautmann

What does it mean to be happy? And how does happiness change throughout the course of life? In this research paper, the authors explore whether happiness indeed comes to us in the shape of a U. Here is the abstract: 


Several studies indicate that happiness follows a U-shape over the life cycle: Happiness decreases after the teenage years until reaching its nadir in middle age. A similar number of studies views the U-shape critically, stating that it is the result of the wrong controls or the wrong model. In this paper, we study the upward-pointing branch of the U-shape, tracing the happiness of European citizens 50 and older over multiple waves. Consistent with a U-shape around middle age, we find that happiness initially increases after the age of 50, but commonly stagnates afterwards and eventually reverts at high age. This pattern is generally observed irrespective of the utilized happiness measure, control variables, estimation methods, and the consideration of selection effects due to mortality. However, the strength of this pattern depends on the utilized happiness measure, control variables, and on mortality effects. The general pattern does not emerge for all countries, and is not always observed for women.

Click here to read the full open-access article, published in 2022 in the Journal Happiness of Studies.

Full Reference //

Becker, C.K., Trautmann, S.T. (2022). Does Happiness Increase in Old Age? Longitudinal Evidence from 20 European Countries. Journal Happiness of Studies 23, 3625–3654.

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

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