Archive | February, 2016

Older, happier, and possibly wiser

20 Feb


An overview of the last three happiness surveys conducted by the Office for National Statistics has confirmed that the elderly have retained their place at the top of the UK well-being tables.

Between 2012 and 2015 data was collected from over 300,000 adults. This shows that people aged 40 to 59 are the least happy in the UK, and have the lowest levels of life satisfaction and the highest levels of anxiety. Conversely, people in the 65 to 79 age-group have the highest levels of happiness and life satisfaction.

The reasons for the discrepancy are not hard to find. Middle-aged folk are mostly working, they have children who are still at school, and increasingly they also have elderly parents to care for. So they have less time, greater financial pressures, and often greater emotional upheavals to deal with as well.

Being relieved of these burdens may not be the only reason why the elderly are happier. Perhaps they’ve actually learnt a few things along the way – like valuing time more than things, and cultivating face-to-face contacts rather than succumbing to the unfeeling and relentless demands of social media. 

For the middle-aged things get worse before they get better. A low point is reached by people aged 50 to 54. But they do have something to look forward to. At 65 they will statistically be the happiest people in the country, and they will have 9 years in which to enjoy it. They’ll be 74 before the glow of these halcyon years starts to fade a little. But even if they live to be 90, they’ll still be happier than they were when they were middle-aged.

Just for the record, Northern Ireland is the happiest region in the UK, while the North-East of England is the most miserable. And overall women have higher levels of anxiety than men, but they’re also happier and more satisfied with their lives. So cutting down on stress may not be the key to happiness – we may need to put up with a bit of it in order to accomplish things that we see as worthwhile.

As for the middle-aged, ‘Get out of the house more’ is the advice offered by Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics. Put your mobiles away, go for a walk, meet your friends and listen to music. ‘If everybody did that every day, we’d be a great deal happier.’