Staying mentally healthy and strong has been at the crux of many life milestones, including career success and relationship satisfaction. The article explores whether this sense of well-being progressively change as an individual grows older.
According to a new report published in Psychological Science, there’s very good reason to be hopeful. The studies reveal that feelings of well-being tend to increase with age. However an individual’s overall health, both mental and physical, depends on the era they were born.
Psychological scientist Angelina R. Sutin of Florida State University College of Medicine conducted the study while at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She and her fellow researchers predicted that people born around the same time might share unique experiences that shape the way they evaluate life. They hypothesized that the level of well-being a person reports would, therefore, vary according to his or her birth year.
To form the basis of their thinking, Sutin and her team examined data from several thousand people over 30 years, including over 10,000 reports on well-being, health, and other factors. The result: Older adults had lower levels of wellbeing than younger and middle-aged adults.
But when Sutin and her colleagues analyzed that specific data while taking into account births that took place around the same time, it was observed that life satisfaction increased over the participants’ lifetimes.
Why the different results? According to Sutin and her researchers, the level of well-being of cohorts born in the early part of the 20th century, particularly those who lived through the Great Depression, was substantially lower than the level of well-being of individuals who grew up during more prosperous times. This could possibly be due to the latter’s exposure to increased educational opportunities, booming economic prosperity, and the expansion of social and public programs over the latter half of the 20th century.
What does this mean for today’s younger generations? According to Sutin, “As young adults today enter a stagnant workforce, the challenges of high unemployment may have implications for their well-being that long outlast the period of joblessness. Economic turmoil may impede psychological, as well as financial, growth even decades after times get better.”