Happiness falls in 40s but recovers in 50s and beyond, study reveals
People's happiness levels typically dip when they reach their 40s - but then start to climb again by the age of 50 and into retirement, a report has found.
The findings from insurer Aviva suggest the pursuit of happiness pays off with age.
Asked to describe their current level of happiness with life, fewer than two in five people (38%) aged between 40 and 49 years old described themselves as either extremely or quite happy, compared with nearly half (47%) of thirtysomethings.
But happiness levels start to bounce back for the 50- to 59-year-old age bracket, with 43% of people describing themselves as happy.
The research found that happiness levels steadily climb from 50 onwards, approaching and into retirement, with 51% of people aged between 60 and 64 described as happy, nudging up to 59% of 65- to 74-year-olds.
Two-thirds (66%) of people aged 75-plus describe themselves as happy.
Many people in their 40s find themselves in the "squeezed middle" bracket of having both dependent children and ageing parents to consider.
Aviva's findings also suggest that retirement has a big part to play in happiness. Retired people were twice as likely to be extremely happy than those who were still working, at 14% versus 7%.
People who had been retired for more than 10 years report even higher levels of extreme happiness, with 16% describing themselves as extremely happy.
And nearly two-thirds (62%) of current retirees feel their experience of retirement is better than they had expected.
Pensioners in the East Midlands were most likely to feel that their experience of retirement is better than they imagined it would be, with 68% feeling this way, according to the study of 6,000 people.
Retirees in Yorkshire and Humberside were the most likely to be comfortable enough not to worry about money, while those in Wales and London were the least likely, according to the findings.
One in 10 (10%) retirees in London said retirement was worse than they had imagined, marking the highest proportion of any region surveyed. On average, 7% of retirees feel their experience of retirement has turned out to be worse than expected.
Rodney Prezeau, managing director, consumer platform, Aviva UK Life, said that while it is reassuring to see that many of today's retirees find their experience has exceeded their expectations, the findings beg the question: "I s this a golden generation, unlikely to be seen again?"
He said: "Planning ahead and taking matters into your own hands is becoming ever more important to increase your chances of achieving a comfortable retirement."
Here is how the pursuit of happiness pays off with age, according to Aviva. The figures show the percentages of people described as extremely happy, followed by those who are quite happy, by age group:
:: 30 to 39, 9%, 38%
:: 40 to 49, 5%, 33%
:: 50 to 59, 7%, 36%
:: 60 to 64, 10%, 41%
:: 65 to 74, 12%, 47%
:: 75-plus, 17%, 49%