Life Can Be More Satisfying As You Get Older But It Depends Where You Live

Bill Gates. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

You get less satisfied with your life around middle age.

And as you get older still, that life satisfaction improves but only if you live in a high-income, English-speaking country such a Australia.

According to a report in the medial journal The Lancet, residents of other regions — such as the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa — grow increasingly less satisfied as they age.

The study conducted by researchers from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Stony Brook University and University College London highlights how residents of different regions experience varying life-satisfaction and emotions as they age.

In the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, older residents reported very low rankings of life satisfaction compared with younger residents in those regions.

This same pattern is seen in Latin America and Caribbean countries, though life satisfaction does not decrease as sharply as in the Eastern European countries. And in sub-Saharan Africa, life satisfaction is very low at all ages.

“Economic theory can predict a dip in well-being among the middle age in high-income, English-speaking countries,” said Angus Deaton, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Wilson School.

“Our findings suggest that health care systems should be concerned not only with illness and disability among the elderly but their psychological states as well.”

The researchers confirmed a well-known U-shaped curve which bottoms out between the ages of 45 and 54 in high-income, English speaking countries.

These countries include the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland Australia and New Zealand.

This curve indicates that, in these countries, middle-age residents report the lowest levels of life satisfaction which eventually bounces back up after age 54.

“This finding is almost expected,” said Deaton.

“This is the period at which wage rates typically peak and is the best time to work and earn the most, even at the expense of present well-being, so as to have increased wealth and well-being later in life.”

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