I have been chronically uninterested in psychological studies based on random surveys. It has seemed to me to be a losing proposition to ask a random sampling of people what they think. It seems obvious to me that most people do not think. Rather, they rely on prepackaged belief systems to make sense of their own existence.
I could not help but be interested, however, in this recent article in The New York Times describing a study that suggests that people get happier as they get older.
Happiness May Come With Age, Study Says - NYTimes.com
It suggests that people peek out in their unhappiness with themselves in their early 50's and then get happier and happier as they get older. . .until in their early 80's people are generally happier than they were even when they were 18.
“It’s a very encouraging fact that we can expect to be happier in our early 80s than we were in our 20s,” he [Andrew J. Oswald, a professor of psychology at Warwick Business School in England] said. “And it’s not being driven predominantly by things that happen in life. It’s something very deep and quite human that seems to be driving this.”
Dr. [Arthur A.] Stone, who is a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said that the findings raised questions that needed more study. “These results say there are distinctive patterns here,” he said, “and it’s worth some research effort to try to figure out what’s going on. Why at age 50 does something seem to start to change?”
And the point is that they start to change for the better.
Somewhere some weeks ago in an entry that I cannot locate, I waxed rhapsodic about how happy I am being old. I expressed the hope that if I can avoid injury or illness, I could enjoy another ten great years before being old starts to become less fun. This damned article has me optimistic that I might be able to extend that period.
In any event my body seems to be working well still. I am back in the gym regularly. I did not lose too much during the layoff because of all the walking and now the bike riding again, which I have so much enjoyed all through life, even when I occasionally fell off the bicycle as a result of overindulgence. But there is no way for me to maintain any real upper body strength without going to the gym. So there is one more comeback in progress there.
Emotionally—notwithstanding the fact that this entry references an article from The New York Times--I try to follow Thoreau's advice and refrain from reading newspapers. Or watching television news, which I am sure would have left Thoreau appalled.
I suppose I am fatalistic, but it is clear that we are at the end of an historical period marked by a worldwide economy based upon continued growth of consumerism. I cannot do anything about that nor do I wish to. If we are lucky, the species will survive albeit in much smaller numbers. Those survivors are going to have to find some totem through which to give meaning to their own existence other than consumer goods. Then perhaps the planet can clean itself and right itself with our species still around. I am happy with that state of affairs, and there is nothing being reported on in the newspapers or television news that will change it.
From a more local perspective, it must be obvious to anyone who has read more than a couple of my entries here that I enjoy Mexico immensely. I love it here. I recognize that Mexico in its current state of instability could be my undoing in one way or another. Still, if you love something, you accept the risks involved. After all, life itself is one big risk.
But now I find, thanks to this study, that my happiness may simply be a result of a change in my brain chemistry that has resulted from growing old.
You know what? I am perfectly fine with that, too.