Research: Happiness Surges After Age 50

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Results of a phone survey of more than 340,000 Americans suggest that stress and worry decrease — and happiness surges — after middle age.

The findings, published online yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest that feelings of anger and stress begin diminishing in the early 20s, while worry finally wanes after age 50.

The results are derived from a 2008 Gallup phone survey in which people were asked yes/no questions about their experience of happiness, stress, anger, sadness and other emotions during the day prior to the call. Researchers found that people ages 50 through 80 expressed the highest levels of contentment, and that this was the case even when factors such as marital status, employment or whether or not they had children were taken into account.

The findings add to previous research suggesting that happiness and overall enjoyment of life may be plotted on a U-shaped curve that dips lowest in our 40s, before surging back to contentment after 50.