What age are you happiest? (Hint: not 20.)

Some say the best days of our life are long gone. We respectfully disagree; as we enter retirement, a great deal of happiness is still to come. And it seems that science is on our side.

A research project by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has measured when we feel happiest in life, tracking our overall satisfaction levels as we age.

This huge study took information from 27,000 Australians over a period of 12 years. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, The results reveal some very clear patterns – some of them wonderfully reassuring to those of us who have wondered about the future.

The following chart records overall happiness ratings as we age:


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At 15 years of age, we tend to be very content. This dips dramatically as we enter our early 20s. As the realities of life begin to sink in, it falls even further through to our mid-30s, and ultimately stabilising from 30 through to 50.

However, things get significantly better from there. After 50, happiness levels pick up considerably, raising up to the age of 80, where they reach almost their highest level of all.

While levels decline a little after 80, they still manage to remain much higher than much of the preceding life.

Of course, everybody’s life is unique, full of different events and moods that no graph could predict or reflect. We can’t ever know what tomorrow will bring. Nonetheless, these overall patterns from the population as a whole are very reassuring for many of us.

For younger Australians, the biggest factors in personal happiness are leaving home, moving in with a new partner, and expecting a new child.

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However, the turbulent early years of a new child’s life can lead to a drop in happiness for the parent. Satisfaction with life will improve, however, once the kids start school.

Strangely, there is only a small increase in satisfaction after children have grown up and left home. Retirement, however, brings a significant boost in happiness.

Do you agree? Do these overall happiness ratings reflect your life? At what age did you feel – or do you expect to feel – at your happiest?