The U-Bend of Happiness

It dawned on me the other day that when I do a post that includes a link to an article I’ve recently had published, some readers may think it screams ‘Yay me! Look at what I’ve done.’

That’s certainly not the intention, and I apologize if it appears that way.

The thing is, I like to share. It’s really more of a case of ‘hey, have you been reading about this particular piece of news, this new unusual finding or aspect of an issue I found rather interesting…’

The truth is, I write for a variety of publications and I do my best to come up with interesting topics that will be appreciated by their respective readerships.

There are many times when I also feel the article would be of interest to the great folks who faithfully follow here, stop by to visit (and hopefully decide to stay), or somehow happen to find themselves at this site and decide to poke around.

That’s certainly the case with the article I’d like to share with you today. I read (what I found to be) a fascinating article in The Economist awhile back entitled ‘The U-Bend of Life’, and hoped you’d find it every bit as absorbing as I did.

The article builds on developments in positive psychology (previously referred to as the study of optimism) and recent trends of governments and researchers to attempt to quantify ‘happiness’ or wellbeing.

In short, it chronicles how, despite being from different countries/cultures, people the world over tend to go through the same U-shaped trajectory in terms of self-reported levels of happiness (or at least contentedness), relative to their age.

Bottomline? Regardless of where we live, we tend to start out claiming relatively high levels of happiness which lessen as we age; by our late 40s/early 50s (depending on the particular country) we usually hit our lowest point of reported wellbeing, and then slowly work our way back up the happiness scale.

Even if one country’s population reports its overall level of happiness to be higher relative to another country, the U-shape remains the same. We’re happiest at the beginning and ending of our lives, and unhappiest (or least happy) during middle age.

Okay, so people tend to report going through similar levels of happiness at the same stages in life. Big deal.

Well, actually it is a big deal. Not only were the findings consistent across countries, but the researcher went to great lengths to review the impact of all sorts of variables including age, gender, marital status, education level, whether respondents were extroverts or more introverted, had children or were childless or were experiencing the challenges of being the sandwich generation, and so on.

I really enjoyed researching and writing The Global U-Bend of Happiness for Expat Focus, and I hope you’ll find it as fascinating as I did. And be sure to read the original Economist article as it’s chockful of all sorts of riveting information.

According to the research, I guess I’m supposed to be near my unhappiest level fairly soon. Who knew?

(Those of you who think I’m already there, shush.)

All I can say is that if I’m approaching what will essentially the nadir of happiness, I hadn’t really noticed.

That said, I’ll take a steadily climbing happiness level anyday.




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