“Midlife crisis” myth: people tend to become happier as they get older

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Happiness in life tends to increase up to the age of 70. However, young people aged 9 to 16 are generally dissatisfied with their lives.

The very term “midlife crisis” implies that during menopause, not only hormone levels but also moods start to slide. However, according to a German-Swiss study, life satisfaction rises slightly up to 70, with a slight dip well before menopause.

The research team led by Susanne Bücker from Witten/Herdecke University analyzed 443 studies in which a total of over 460,000 female test subjects from a wide range of regions, such as Europe, Asia, and the USA, were asked about their life satisfaction several times, for example, at intervals of one year.

The individual questions could be general, along the lines of “How satisfied are you with your life?”, or they could relate to specific feelings and emotions, such as “Have you been sad more often recently?” or “Are you still very interested in the things in your life?”.

There is no breaking point during the menopause
The researchers found no significant evidence of the notorious emotional breaking point during menopause. “And we are not the only ones who have found no evidence of this,” emphasizes Bücker. On the contrary, the studies show a slow and slight upward trend in life satisfaction from young adulthood to age 70. Only the course of relationship satisfaction shows a slight dip around menopause, but the fact that the partner has changed may also play a role here.

The question remains as to how the steady increase in life satisfaction can be explained, as many people’s health tends to go downhill over the course of their lives. “But this can obviously be compensated for by other positive changes,” explains Bücker, “such as educational qualifications, stronger social ties, or a consolidation of the financial situation.”

According to the psychologist, people also develop better strategies to deal with stress and negative emotions throughout their lives. Much of what was still upsetting in youth hardly caused a shrug later.

Young people are relatively unhappy
At 70, however, all this is no longer enough to compensate for the increasing losses, for example, in health or the social environment. “And then,” states Bücker, “life satisfaction also decreases.” In addition to senior citizens, another age group is relatively dissatisfied with their lives: 9 to 16-year-olds.

This cannot be due to puberty alone, as it does not usually start at a single-digit age, even if its onset has recently been postponed. Bücker suspects that expectations are increasingly placed on young people during this phase. For example, this could be the increasing pressure to perform at school because they have moved from elementary school to secondary school.

“During this time, however, young people’s search for identity also picks up speed,” explains the psychologist. This applies to the physical area: “Many girls complain that they are dissatisfied with their bodies as early as the age of 9, i.e. even before puberty, and this naturally eats away at their self-esteem.”

Scientists at the University of Amsterdam recently discovered that a child’s own appearance is even more important for their self-esteem than honesty or moral behavior, social relationships, sporting skills, or their relationship with their parents. This applies equally to boys and girls, regardless of nationality, which surprised the study’s authors the most. Their explanation: appearance is seen before all other characteristics of a person. And the media, society around the globe, and the clock convey that this is also particularly important.

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