The search for happiness is a lifelong quest, but it seems most people in my generation aren't feeling it. We know age brings us wisdom, but joy isn't part of the package. According to a recent study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, American adults over age 30 are unhappier than their predecessors, but this is the opposite for teens and young adults who are happier and "more satisfied with their lives than adolescents in past decades and generations." In the 1970s, 38% of adults 30 and older said they were "very happy," but just 32% of 30-plus adults in the current decade said so. On the other hand, 28% of young adults aged between 18 to 29 said they were "very happy" in the '70s, but since 2010 that figure has risen to 30%. Happiness was rated highly by the participants of the study who said it was five times more important than wealth in judging what makes for a "good life."
So why is there such a disparity in happiness levels between adults then and now? Researchers believe it could be the pursuit of the big American dream and the "high expectations" it sets, which can't be met. "American culture has increasingly emphasized high expectations and following your dreams—things that feel good when you're young," said lead researcher and San Diego State University professor Jean M. Twenge, PhD. "However, the average mature adult has realized that their dreams might not be fulfilled, and less happiness is the inevitable result." He adds, "Perhaps adolescents still expect they can reach higher levels of income, while adults over 30 realize they will not."
So what explains the spike in teen happiness then? Dr. Twenge speculates "growing individualism" and new technology such as social media and cell phones have enhanced the lives of young people, but had quite the opposite effect on adults. "With higher individualism, young people have more to enjoy, while mature adults may not get the social support they need," the study reads.
To read more of this study, visit Sage Journals.
Discover happiness in under a minute—shop our top life-changing book below.
Do you agree with the study findings? What makes you happy? Share your thoughts below.