Happiness Peaks at Age 69, Study Shows (Why Are We Not Surprised?)

If you’re miserable right now, don’t worry. It’s totally normal. You’ll feel better in, oh, about 40 years. How do we know? Science, of course. Researchers have uncovered when people are their happiest – and we have good news and bad news.

The good news is that throughout the life span, there are two happiness peaks. The first is when you’re in your early 20s. No surprise there. You have freedom and your whole future in front of you. You are youthful, likely at your most attractive, and probably don’t have health problems. It’s not hard to be happy when you have it all.

The bad news is that after that initial euphoria of young adulthood wears off, there’s a long span of time until you hit another happiness peak. Hilariously, however, it’s at age 69. (Of course it is.)

“I never publicized these two ages, but a clever reporter at some point noticed it and declared 23 and 69 the happiest years,” economist Hannes Schwandt, a professor at Northwestern University, told Mel magazine.

Schwandt analyzed data on the life expectations and outcomes of 132,609 people, initially to explore midlife crises. What he discovered instead was a U-shaped happiness curve. That’s due to a complex relationship between what we want and what we get. When we’re young, we have low expectations, and end up, unexpectedly, happy. Then our expectations rise as we age, and with them, our disappointment as some of our dreams fail to come true and our goals remain unmet. Things bottom out in our 40s and 50s.

But then something wonderful happens. We jettison all those expectations and learn to be satisfied with our lot in life. That’s when happiness levels rise again – just in time for our randy 69th birthdays. The effect is near universal.

“Young people strongly overestimate their future life satisfaction while the elderly tend to underestimate it,” Schwandt wrote in the study. “This pattern is stable over time, observed within cohorts, within individuals and across different socio-economic groups.”

There is a caveat, though – that feeling of contentedness in your late 60s is dependent upon good physical health and close interpersonal relationships. If you don’t take care of your body and foster bonds with others, there won’t be a magical influx of happiness when you hit the 69-year milestone.

So while some of your happiest days may be in your past and the next round of good vibes won’t return for several decades, you can take steps now to ensure that you’ll be on the upswing come 69.

Cover Photo: bravo1954 (Getty Images)

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