Happiness research tends not to focus on the most sullen of subgroups (cue the jokes: Isn’t “happy teenager” an oxymoron?, etc.), but a new study finds that happiness and social adjustment during teenhood may be important predictors of well-being and success in midlife.
Researchers reviewed data on 2,776 individuals, who were involved in a British longitudinal study and had been followed since their births in 1946. At ages 13 and 15, teachers evaluated children for energy levels, friendships, popularity with other kids and happiness. Student were also rated for emotional problems and negative behaviors at school. (More on Time.com: 5 Ways to Become Happier and More Confident)
In adulthood, data were collected on participants’ happiness, mental health status, work experience, relationships and social activities. The researchers found that people who were happier and better adjusted in childhood were also more likely to report better social relationships, more work satisfaction, better mental health and more social activity in adulthood.
But one finding was a surprise. Happy teens, researchers found, were more likely to be divorced in adulthood than unhappy ones. Though it seems counterintuitive, the researchers suggest that it may actually be a positive sign: happy individuals with good social support and high self-esteem (not to mention stable jobs) may be in a better position to leave an unhappy marriage.
How they ended up in an unhappy marriage to begin with, however, will have to be fodder for another study.