Is happiness U-shaped? Some theories about it

Simon Doyle
Is happiness U-shaped? Some theories about it

We recently spoke in Psicoactiva about the relationship between age and happiness and we were struck by the data revealed by the study carried out by the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics (ONS) and published in Medical Daily. These data, much commented around the world, indicated that the experience of happiness throughout our lives had a clear shape, specifically a "U" shape that was repeated over and over again in different people..


  • The happiness curve
  • The other psychological theories of happiness
  • Towards a consensus between theories
    • Links of interest

The happiness curve

The ONS economists interviewed hundreds of participants from different countries and compared their level of happiness through surveys that analyzed key aspects such as their jobs, families, social life or partners, among other factors. After analyzing the statistical results, the researchers were surprised by this interesting pattern that they had found..

According to these data, surprisingly, people experience our greatest happiness at two important points in our lives: around the age of 20 and from the age of 69, while we notice a decline in our happiness levels between the ages of 40 and 50..

These results were repeated among men and women in other high-income countries, although not in other parts of the world, which tells us how the socioeconomic characteristics of cultures and the different demands of these contexts influence when it comes to finding our sensation of wellness.

Although economists indicate that there are personal exceptions, the clarity of these statistical results taken through the data of 23,000 people shows how the older we get, the greater the feeling of happiness we experience. This seems to be because the problems of adulthood take a back seat. Work, economic and family demands, such as educating young children or dealing with a boss or an unsatisfactory job, no longer influence our daily lives and people, from the age of 69, experience a greater sense of tranquility and freedom, as well as more desire to live the moment.

However, the curve shows a decline as we move further and further into adult life, reaching its lowest point between 40-50 years, a stage in which vital obligations and concerns appear to be greater. During the 20 years, however, the first outbreak of happiness occurs, probably due to high expectations about entering adulthood and a lack of concern about responsibilities, uncertainties and problems that we might encounter later..

The other psychological theories of happiness

Despite the evidence of the results of this study, it seems that the research community does not agree on the certainty of which are the necessary factors for high happiness in people. In addition to this study, other surveys have affirmed that the age at which we experience the greatest happiness is 33 years old, a stage in which people have greater maturity to manage their emotions and achieve more personal and work success.

Furthermore, the field of psychology tends to associate the feeling of happiness with a multiplicity of factors that interact with each other, rather than with a closed line of stages. Causes such as a healthy social life, good physical and psychological health and economic tranquility are key to experiencing this sensation so longed for throughout the history of humanity, a feeling of fullness and well-being extended over time that has little to do with it. with a specific emotion.

Towards a consensus between theories

It is clear that finding happiness is a feeling that can be quite subjective between people and that depends a lot on the expectations that we create for ourselves through our life history. However, the ways in which different societies and economies work show their influence on the emotions of individuals clearly in this study..

The demands and obligations that the system imposes on people can generate tendencies to stress and anxiety that are reflected in different negative emotional states and even psychological disorders. This, which for many people is difficult to manage, could be alleviated to some extent with a good psychological and emotional education that would allow us to manage frustration and stress in order to make this curve become a straight or even ascending line of positive emotions..

Links of interest

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