The kids may be alright, but the grown-ups are not, according to a study recently published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.
The study authors used surveys conducted among American adults over the years to see how self-reported happiness rates have changed over time. The results are pretty stark, as demonstrated by charts generated by the researchers:
"Age is supposed to bring happiness and contentment. For that not to be true anymore is somewhat shocking," lead author Jean Twenge told the Associated Press.
The researchers found that until 2010, adults 30 and older were happier than those aged 18-29. In 2010, however, that relationship flipped. The authors offer some thoughts on why this might be the case in their study:
We can only speculate about why adolescents and you adults have become happier while mature adults are now less happy. Recent changes in American culture may have benefited younger people more than mature adults. For example, growing individualism may have impacted age groups differently. Adolescence and young adulthood are self-focused life stages, but mature adulthood often involves the maintenance of committed relationships and a setting aside of individual needs.
In addition to a new focus on individualism, authors think social media and technology, unrealistic expectations in terms of general life achievement, and growing income inequality might be making young adults happier and more optimistic, but older adults unhappier. Hard to argue with all that.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.