I wasn't going to blog about that new survey's results on happiness when I saw it last week but I got to thinking about it again yesterday.
In case you missed it, here is an edited synopsis from the Los Angeles Times:
New research this week has found that happiness over the course of a lifetime follows a universal curve in which the greatest bliss occurs at the beginning and end of life, while misery dominates middle age.
The pattern was consistent around the globe, according to the report, which examined social survey data on 2 million people in 80 countries, including the United States.
The study, conducted by economists Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in England and David Blanchflower of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, set out to look at the relationship between age and happiness.
Researchers controlled for other factors that affect happiness, such as divorce, job loss and income.
The researchers, whose study will be published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, found that in the United States happiness reached its lowest point around age 40 in women and age 50 in men.
Oswald was perplexed by the results. He said it was possible that in midlife people learn to accept their strengths and weaknesses and abandon unrealistic aspirations."
I am perplexed too. Sure, I can understand the high levels of satisfaction among 20 years old, at one peak on the graph. They are optimistic, hopeful and stupid. But I guess I can't yet know why 80 years olds are just as happy. I imagine I'll be terrified about waking up dead every morning. That is if I even make it that far.
As for abandoning "unrealistic aspirations," as the researcher suggests to explain the low happiness levels for Americans in their 40s, I have left most of mine behind. I've gradually accepted that I will not be an astronaut or a baseball player and I will never own a tapir.
I was also forced to examine just how little I have accomplished when I realized that Senator Barack Obama, who at this point in the '08 campaign is still a viable candidate to be the next President of the United States, is younger than I am. I have trouble working a can opener and this guy might run the country?