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Attitudes About Aging Different from Reality

ciety, Lacey says, and affect the way older people are treated as well as the public policies that affect them.

Peter Ubel, M.D., director of the Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine, in his studies has found that ill people are oft times surprisingly happy even as happy as healthy people. This has shown their adaptability or resilience in view of their medical problems.

According to Ulbel ‘People's happiness results more from their underlying emotional resources -- resources that appear to grow with age. People get better at managing life's ups and downs, and the result is that as they age, they become happier -- even though their objective circumstances, such as their health, decline.’

The study was performed using an online survey with six questions, in four different orders. The participants had previously volunteered to take online surveys, and chose to respond to the U-M/VA inquiry. The two age groups were about equally divided between men and women. About 35 percent of the younger group's members were from ethnic minority groups, compared with 24 percent of the older group's members.

Each participant was asked to rate his or her own current level of happiness on a scale of 1 to 10, and also to rate on that same scale how happy an average person of their age would be. Each participant was also asked to remember or predict (depending on their age) their level of happiness at age 30 and at age 70, again on a scale of 1 to 10. They were also asked to guess the happiness of the average person at each of those ages.

A statistical analysis has shown that people in the older group reported a current level of happiness for themselves that was significantly higher than the self-rating made by the younger group's members. And yet, participants of all ages thought that the average 30-year-old would be happier than the average 70-year-old, and that happiness would decline with age.

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