Things get bad. Then they get better.

Matthias Grünewald - Tutt'Art@ (52)

Of the factors that determine our state of mind, one of the biggest—and the only one we can do nothing about—is age. As it happens, there is a predictable U-shaped curve that describes how age affects happiness, and this course is the same in cultures all over the world: People are happy in their early 20s. Then, even as they experience professional success, make money, and have families, they grow progressively unhappy. They bottom out somewhere between 40 and 50. It is a miserable decade.

And then the oddest and most unexpected thing happens: they start to get happier, and continue on this path until the end of their lives. Barring catastrophe and disease, people in their 80s are as happy as people of 20.

Why? There are worldly factors: Child-rearing ends. Money and time are more abundant. People can look back with a sense of achievement and contentment. But that’s really not it. There is some fundamental biochemical change, which makes us less angry and sad, and less prone to worrying. Older people are simply more content. Which is good for us, and very good for our lovers.

During this holiday, when we are remembering how bad things could get for a man of 33 (middle-aged, during his Age), we must also remember that not long afterwards, because of him, things got much better—for everyone (except the Jews).

2 thoughts on “Things get bad. Then they get better.

    • It’s a phenomenon that is statistically verifiable. So you could say it’s scientific, because one likes to think psychology is a science. As for philosophy, perhaps old philosophers endorse it; young ones are likely skeptical. But they’ll find out.

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