Research: People Tend to Grow Happier As They Age – Do Cranky People Die Sooner Than Pollyannas?
…. But if you look at the scientific data, it turns out that most older people are not actually crankier than younger people–it’s just that they don’t play by the same social rules.
When you’re younger, being nice and presenting yourself positively can gain people’s good favor down the line, says Derek Isaacowitz, a psychology professor at Northeastern University, but that ceases to be a major motivator as you age.
That’s why social scientists like to point out that outward expressions of grumpiness may just be a sign that someone is unconcerned with social niceties–as opposed to being hardened and unhappy.
In fact, study after study has shown that despite appearances, people tend to grow happier with age, particularly after age 80. One reason: older adults tend to ignore negative information, focusing instead on the things they prefer to focus on.
That’s particularly helpful when you consider that, by and large, elderly people have more experience facing upsetting losses than younger folks, simply because they’ve been around longer. “You start getting the experience that this is life, and you get used to moving on with it,” says Nir Barzilai, who runs a center on aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. “It has to do with life experience. It has to do with psychology.”
Less clear is whether happiness contributes to longevity in any meaningful way. There’s plenty of research on both sides…