Life satisfaction and happiness tends to increase from the late teens through the late 30s (Galambos, et al., 2015). Such a statement tends to go against the generally held belief that people are happier in their youth. In fact, even previous research tended to show that happiness decreased from late adolescence through mid-adulthood.
Why are the results different for this study? And why should this study be believed to be more accurate? Because this study shows the importance of not relying upon memory when asking about past happiness. Frequently, people's memories are distorted, and therefore, not reliable. Instead of asking people about the past, this research followed a group of people over a period of 15-20 years periodically asking them about the present: “Thinking about your life in general, how happy are you with your life?” This allowed a direct comparison of different points in each subject's life. Research that follows people over time is more accurate than relying upon memory.
Understanding that life gets better can be critical for many young people who experience depression due to life circumstances. Too often they hear statements such as “The best time of my life was high school” or “Life only gets more demanding” which can be quite discouraging for someone already depressed. If, instead, they understood that their circumstances are temporary and that life can improve, they can use that hope to cope and continue on.
To learn ways to bring more happiness into your life, take Your Happiness Assessment.
Kindle Books by
Dr. Monica Frank