People’s happiness over their lifetime follows a U-shaped curve, with the young and the old the happiest and those in middle age the most unhappy, according to a study cited by The (London) Daily Telegraph.
Young people are carefree and optimistic about their future and dissatisfaction does not begin to kick in until they are in their late 20s, the research indicates.
People over the age of 50 also rated highly on the happiness index, due to their acceptance and satisfaction with their lives.
"A U-shaped happiness curve does not necessarily imply that a 65-year-old prefers his own life to the life of a 25-year-old," said the 29-year-old researcher, Belgium-based economist Bert van Landeghem.
"Both the 25-year-old and 65-year-old might agree that it is nicer to be 25 than to be 65. But the 65-year-old might nevertheless be more satisfied, as he has learned to be satisfied with what he has."
The study found, however, that happiness dropped during middle-age, and the level of unhappiness experienced then could be “the equivalent to becoming unemployed or losing a family member.”
This unhappy period eased from the mid-forties onwards, when people became "more cheerful and optimistic, perhaps reaching a maximum in their late 70s or 80s."
Van Landeghem -- who will present his findings at Royal Holloway, the University of London later this week -- said his findings were not limited to people who lived in the West.
Separately, a survey of 341,000 people by the American National Academy of Sciences found that happiness levels began climbing in the late forties and peaked at age 85.
The study attributed the spike in happiness to good health care and people doing more activities they enjoyed while cutting down on things they disliked.
Middle-aged people, on the other hand, were often burdened by financial and time obligations such as looking after children and caring for their parents.