Why researchers say we’re less happy with our lives as we get older

According to new research by the Melbourne Institute, life satisfaction drops sharply between the time we retire and the age

According to new research by the Melbourne Institute, life satisfaction drops sharply between the time we retire and the age of 90.

Apparently it’s only “commonsense” that our happiness declines as we age, according to the authors of the research.

So, where did they draw the conclusion from?

After all, we’re so used to hearing about new research!

The research, published in the Australian Economic Review, has been surveying the same people over the past 15 years.

It uses a survey, asking people across all ages “all things considered, how satisfied are you with your life?” and asks them to give an answer between 0 and 10.

What the survey found was life satisfaction peaks at the age of 15, and continues falling until the age of 65.

Apparently, our life satisfaction rises just as we prepare to retire and then it plunges down to a score of just 6.4 by the time we reach the age of 90.

The authors of the survey, Wooden and Li,  say our life satisfaction drops more three times more between retirement and the age of 90 than if we had a disability or long term health conditions.

Wooden and Li point to losing friends, poor health and social isolation as the cause of older Australians becoming less happy in their senior years.

“Increasing longevity will not necessarily be associated with a marked improvement in quality of life among older Australians; more Australians will simply be spending more years in a relatively dissatisfied state,” they claim.


While the survey plays to the stereotype that we’re just miserable oldies, there are many of us more mature folk who’d challenge it for sure.

What do you think of this research? Are you less satisfied with life now than when you were younger?




  1. Rhonda Joy Hutton  

    Life is what you make it – one thing for sure, this aint a dress rehearsal it is the real thing. 73 and loving being at the pointy end – don’t look back, because that aint where you are going. Be grateful for crook knees, hips and any other joints that ache and the wrinkles, too. They are all the road map of life!

    • Favid  

      Horrible reply

    • Stuart  

      I agree with Rhonda, it’s your life to make what you want of it, keep it real and don’t have yourself on and you will have lots of laughter and adventure, remember it’s a journey, value it.

      • Hanna Frederick  

        It is all about finding your identity. If you are able to be open about what you do and what you are, life is happier. I am a trailing spouse, hitting 69 this month. i love to work! For me if I found an occupation in the new place or country, I am much more content. Have a wonderful partner, so I always found a new occupation. However, it takes longer time, when others at my age “retired”. I have to create my own business, to fulfill my life. Which is challenging.

    • John Otten  

      Right on just move on and get all the enjoyment you can and smell the rose before they smell you. Disagree with “report ” . There is no such thing as one size fits all.

    • Harry Vincent  

      I agree with that Rhonda, I feel the same way, I’m 79 , retired and loving life more than when I was working,

  2. doug  

    Surveys like this upset me. They make me angry and dissatisfied with the result

  3. Maureen  

    I would be so happy to make 90, like several friends of mine, in their 80s and 90sone of whom is 96. None of these people are discontented or depressed, in fact they enjoy their lives. People in general have better health these days and most can live a reasonable lifestyle.
    I am 64 and very annoyed about one aspect of ageing. I’m happy to keep working in my profession but am upset that my income protection, and also my workers’ comp insurance policies will no longer protect me when I turn 65, in less than one month. I feel that if we are expected to work till 70 or more, these policies must cover us. Workers’ comp cover runs out one year after injury, after age 65. This needs to be changed. It’s almost impossible to get income protection cover at this age. I enjoy life and my work, and get bored if I’m home for a while so don’t want to retire for years. But the thought of getting injured or ill and having no income if frightening.

    • Mike  

      Many systems don’t adequately cater for the needs of the aged. I’m retired and 73. My house is on the market to free up capital as I have only a small amount of super. I can only contribute $180,000 a year to super before I reach 75 years of age. This at a time when many retirees are thinking of selling up and downsizing or moving in with relatives. Fortunately, houses where I live don’t sell for inflated prices. It must be a problem in Sydney.

    • Gavin Weston  

      I think you have a good idea about the details you bring up once one reaches the age of 65. Of course the companies/people looking at the market, their primary concern is to make money. The aspects you speak of are part of this attitude of top management/Boards looking at their business profits. That they have enjoyed a long period of income from you, which probably had little or no claims involved consider that they have fulfilled their responsibilities and therefore are not inclined to change the consideration of the longer work lives of their clients. The risk of claims would probably be considered higher as their clients age. Therefore they are not interested in changing. Change in business is a very risky thing to go through if the profits from the change are not sufficient to take the risk. That’s about it.

      • Maureen  

        Good points, Gavin, but I am self employed and have been paying for these insurances policies myself for > 35 years. I don’t have a high income and if I retied at 65 would be eligible for the Age Pension, however I choose to work for a few more years.
        The situation with Workers’ Compensation insurance is, I believe, restricted to NSW, as other states allow cover up to,( I think), age 70. The state government could easily change this. The federal government wants us to work forever and there will be many workers with little or no injury cover. It only covers one for a year after a work-related injury.

  4. Susan Williams  

    I love my life, at almost 70 very happy and content. I don’t expect that to change going forward as I believe in the end it’s in our own hands. If you are satisfied with where you’re at and not constantly looking at others and their lives and wishing things were different for you and you are happy with simple pleasures then you are on the right track.

  5. Bob Bottom  

    Blind Freddy could have come up with these findings. Still, I suppose researchers and academics have to find something to apply their attention to and to spend their government grants on.

  6. Mary Heffernan  

    Having just been turfed off the Age Pension, even though I only own a small home unit paid off over the years (not a MacMansion) and, since retiring a few years ago, have been living frugally on my small amount of Superannuation, I can honestly say that my dissatisfaction level is high. I am disillusioned with the current LNP government, the lies its politicians tell, the constant blaming of the Labor Party for the state of the economy, even though the Liberals have brought this on themselves, with their excessive wages, pensions, perks, tax havens, and failure to impose decent taxation on Big Business. And what is most irksome is the way in which they target the elderly, the vulnerable (cuts to support services for domestic violence victims), the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru who should be processed here, and the homeless, even though the PM is photographed dropping the occasional dollar in the outstretched cup (no doubt aware of a good PR opportunity!). I will no doubt suck these cuts up and get on with the process of living my life (what choice do I have?), but the “Lying Libs” have lost my vote FOREVER!

    • Wiso  

      If you have just been turfed off the Age Pension Mary then you either have adjusted annual income of more then $34,000 if you are single, or you have more than $600,000 in assets apart from your home so I think you are doing OK.

      It wasn’t the libs who spent all the savings, or who brought all the ‘refugees’ to our country so that they could take what our seniors should be enjoying.

  7. Ray Yanko  

    Lawn bowls can play a big part in keeping active and making new friends.Health issues are a problem and can make the
    Elderly less happy.Most of us have some health issue. JOIN UP To your nearest bowling club if you are unhappy.We will cheer you up.

  8. Margaret Hunter  

    66 and never more ontent in my entire life. Love retirement. Only have full pènsion so it’s not that I am living the luxury life. No depèndants no worries do as I please. What more could I want

  9. Michael Cousins  

    This is mickey mouse PhD type thesis of the worst kind

  10. Bobbie  

    There are certainly pros and cons to becoming “elderly”. The cons:- becoming “invisible” to many younger people and businesses; the “I, me, and myself” attitude of many people; being labelled as a “drain on society, the health system, or the taxpayer”; being less physically able to do as much as I used to; needing “nanny naps”, hearing “bad language” almost everywhere I go or whenever I turn on the TV; excessive noise from loud hi-fi’s, vehicles, people arguing; “road rage”; the decline in police and court effectiveness; the destruction of Nature in the grab for more money; global warming nay-sayers; cruelty toward animals and those who are helpless; ignorant politicians; lowering of media/news standards; people telling me how to live my life or make my Will; people who insist on everything being “PC”, and who label people with an opinion as “racist”.

    Positive things:- ABC “Four Corners” and similar programs, the internet; on-line universities; home-delivery of goods and shopping; still being able to drive; having a good GP and local health service; being able to afford private health cover; having survived bowel cancer; having had a wonderful spouse; having a supportive sister and neighbours; having obtained a Uni Degree; having travelled the world and Australia before security became an issue; being able to keep chooks and my own garden; being able to see the stars; being able to laugh at my “grumpy old” moments; looking forward to the future.

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