Your 40s maybe called the new 30s—or even the new 20s—but new research suggests that odds are, you’re just not going to be as happy in your 40s as you were during those previous decades.
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A paper to be published in an upcoming issue of the Economic Journal followed 50,000 adults across three countries and found that people experienced the lowest life satisfaction and well-being between the ages of 40 and 42. Participants filled out surveys ranking how happy they were on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being very dissatisfied and 10 being very satisfied. The ensuing data shows a U-shaped pattern, where happiness begins to decline at the onset of adulthood, and doesn’t reach its peak until one’s 70s.
Although the researchers didn’t get into the reasoning behind the pattern, they were emphatic that presence or absence of children had no effect on the statistic. Phillip Hodson, a psychotherapist at the West London Centre for Counselling, tells The Guardian that he suspects these numbers could be reflective of “the burdens of life” that fall on the middle-aged. “You are working as you will probably never work again in older age and probably harder than you did when you were younger. Childhood and old age are protected times of life to a degree. In old age, you are funded or you have funded it. It’s the same for a child. You are looked after at both ends of life and your responsibilities are fewer.”
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