Happiness and Age – Resolving the Debate

This article is a response to an article by David Bartram, which questions the validity of a vast literature establishing consistently a U-shaped relationship between age and happiness. There are 618 published studies that find U-shapes in that relationship in 145 countries, and only a handful that do not.

Pub. Date
20 November, 2023
Happiness and Age

Main Points

  • The predominant feature of the relationship between age and well-being all around the world, in essentially every dataset, is a midlife low or U-shape. This has been found by many studies, over many years, using multiple datasets with many different measures. Critics of this finding, often using one dataset at a particular point of time for a small number of countries, do not address the wider literature that finds this consistent midlife low.
  • Critiques arguing against the existence of a midlife low in well-being also ignore the objective data, such as deaths of despair (including suicide), antidepressant use and pain all being at their height in the midlife low. We hope that future research challenging or confirming the midlife low finding engages more with the existing evidence and literature. Future research should also investigate the midlife low in more detail, such as what groups suffer more, why and how its consequences can be mitigated.