Are older people really happier than younger people?
Leone, Erica C
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In recent years, quite a few studies and media reports have claimed that older people are happier than younger people. Although this argument may contain partial truth, I question the total validity of this claim. This study investigates several possibilities. I first examine how the effect of age on happiness varies by health status and economic status. I then investigate a possible non-linear effect of age over a life time. I also analyze the effect of generational cohorts and period on happiness. Data from General Social Surveys 1972-2016 and logistic regression are used to test the possibilities. The results show that the effect of age on happiness is moderated by health status and by income. This study also detects a significant nonlinear effect of age on happiness, namely, as people age they become less happy and least happy at the age of 52, and then gradually regain happiness. It is also found that later generations are happier than earlier generations and that the happiness of Americans has ebbed and flown with the peak in 1990. The findings of this study challenge the popular position that older people are happier than younger people and provide a more complete picture of the relationship between age and happiness. The findings also have significant implications for government policies and programs to improve the well-being of the elderly.