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Seniors No Strangers to Happiness
Date:4/21/2008

Older Americans are quite satisfied, while Baby Boomers are the least content, survey shows

MONDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- With age comes wisdom, and now new research suggests happiness tags along for the ride.

Surveys of Americans taken since 1972 suggest that plenty of older people are quite happy, with more than half of black men and women over the age of 80 saying they're "very happy," with older white men and women following suit.

Young people were far behind. Only a third of 18-year-old white men surveyed said they were "very happy," and 28 percent of white women did. Young blacks were even less likely to report being happy.

As for generations, those born between 1946 and 1964 were least likely to say they're happy. "Baby boomers are less content with life as a whole," said study author Yang Yang, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Chicago.

Yang examined data from the University of Chicago's General Social Survey, which conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,500 to 3,000 people during each survey period. With some exceptions, surveys were taken annually from 1972-1994, and every other year after that.

Since 1972, the survey had asked Americans this question: "Taken all together, how would you say things are these days -- would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?"

In his new study, published in the April issue of the American Sociological Review, Yang looked at trends in happiness across various ages and races from 1972 to 2004.

Happiness increased over time, rising to high levels when people were older even as they presumably faced health problems and the deaths of friends and family.

"I am surprised by the fact that older adults are able to maintain a high level of subjective well-being despite general declines in physical health," Yang said. That is "a paradox that deserves future research."
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