3 Reasons Why Adults Are Becoming Sadder With Age, Not Happier
They say the older you are, the wiser you become. That may be true, but according to one study, we are becoming sadder with age too. Up until recently, adults showed signs of increased happiness with age but now it seems like we are going backwards.
According to the study recently published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, our happiness rates have shifted overtime. Before 2010, adults 30 and older were happier than their younger counterparts ages 18-29. Something happened in 2010 because that relationship totally reversed.
Now, mature adults are less happy then younger age groups. The study suggests that recent changes in American culture may have benefited younger people more than mature adults. What kind of changes could this be?
The American culture has shifted into a more individualistic focus. Adolescents and young adults are more focused on their individual life goals and are no longer as motivated by relationships or marriage. However, mature adulthood often involves maintaining a committed relationship and sacrificing individual needs. As young adults look forward to their future, older adults tend to reflect and have negative feelings toward how their life has progressed.
- Technology and Social Media
The author of the study also points to social media and technology as reasons why older adults are unhappy. Social media may give older adults an unrealistic expectation in terms of achievements and often people are overwhelmed by social media. Younger adults tend to be much more acclimated to social media than older adults. Social media is seen to them as a way to stay connected.
However, research believes social media and technology promotes unrealistic expectations in terms of general life achievement. Young adults may become more optimistic from what they see online however older adults seem to be negatively affected by comparing themselves to others. The study notes other unrealistic expectations such as:
- Educational Attainment
- Material Goods
According to the study, mature adults find not achieving these goals disappointing while young adults fare much better off.
- Rising Income Inequality Gaps
Rising income inequality may have more impact on a mature adults than that of adolescents. With the economic downturn of the late 2000s, mature adults over the age of 30 often realize they will not achieve the financial goals they had envisioned for their life. Often, this results in an increase in sadness and anxiety.
Surprisingly, even though young adults had a higher employment rate during the recession than mature adults, their happiness rebounded in the early 2010s while mature adults’ did not. The article suggests other factors may be affecting this trend such as an increase in responsibility.
The results of this study are disheartening to lead author Jean Twenge who elaborated on the study to the Associated Press:
“Age is supposed to bring happiness and contentment. For that not to be true anymore is somewhat shocking.”
It is hard to look forward to getting older when suddenly all you have to look forward to is sadness. However, this may not be the case for everyone. Perhaps this study will allow us to be more proactive about maintaining our happiness levels and creating a lifestyle that encourages optimism.
Personally, being sad is something I struggle to overcome as I get older. Clinging on to creative outlets like writing and music prevents me from falling into depression.
Looking on social media can often put us in in a dark place. Seeing negative news stories pop up often can increase our unhappiness. In the darkest moments, remember to always push forward. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Are you happy? Maybe your goals did not happen like you wanted them to but remember to stop comparing yourselves to others. Keep your head up high. Remember that abusing substances is not a way to deal with your pain. Get help today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.