For some reason, I believe I’ve posted the idea that happiness and perception of well-being follows a predictable curve that hits its low-point in one’s late 40’s for people in developed countries. However, looking for it right now, I was not able to find it. So, here’s a link to an overview article, a book length treatment, and a research article with the following abstract that brought the idea into popular currency:
“We present evidence that psychological well-being is U-shaped through life. A difficulty with research on this issue is that thereare likely to be omitted cohort effects (earlier generations may have been born in, say, particularly good or bad times). First, usingdata on 500,000 randomly sampled Americans and West Europeans, the paper designs a test that can control for cohort effects.Holding other factors constant, we show that a typical individual’s happiness reaches its minimumeon both sides of the Atlanticand for both males and femalesein middle age. Second, evidence is provided for the existence of a similar U-shape through thelife-course in East European, Latin American and Asian nations. Third, a U-shape in age is found in separate well-being regressionequations in 72 developed and developing nations. Fourth, using measures that are closer to psychiatric scores, we document a com-parable well-being curve across the life cycle in 2 other data sets (1) in GHQ-N6 mental health levels among a sample of 16,000Europeans, and (2) in reported depression-and-anxiety levels among 1 million UK citizens. Fifth, we discuss some apparent exceptions, particularly in developing nations, to the U-shape. Sixth, we note that American male birth-cohorts seem to have becomeprogressively less content with their lives. Our results are based on regression equations in which other influences, such as demo-graphic variables and income, are held constant.-David G. Blanchflowera and Andrew J. Oswald, “Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle?” Social Science & Medicine. March 7, 2008.