Despite the fact that a common stereotype for elderly people is that they are old and crotchety, studies are showing that getting older leads to emotional stability and happiness. Teens and young adults are constantly stressing over test scores, job interviews, relationships, and so much more, while aging seniors have finally made peace with how their lives have turned out.
Laura Carstensen, a psychology professor at Stanford University and the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, conducted a study from 1993 to 2005 that tracked nearly 180 Americans between the ages of 18 and 94. Additional participants were included as some original participants passed away during the time of the study and others aged out of the younger groups. In this study participants had pagers and for one week every five years, the devices would buzz, prompting participants to immediately respond to a number of questions. These questionnaires were used to record how happy, content, and comfortable the participants were at any time.
The conclusions to this study were that people get happier as they age, no matter when they were born. Older subjects reported more positive emotions and less negative emotions in comparison to their responses at a younger age. Carstensen believes that “as people get older, they’re more aware of mortality, so when they see or experience moments of wonderful things, that often comes with the realization that life is fragile and will come to an end. But that’s a good thing. It’s a signal of strong emotional health and balance.” In other words, when we know our time left is limited, we focus on what is truly important to us in our lives and we stop worrying and stressing over little things. Because in the end, does it really matter that you scored slightly below average on that chem midterm?
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