Adulthood isn’t as much fun as it used to be. Looking back over decades of data, happiness researchers recently reported that while teens and young adults are happier than they used to be, people over 30 have lost a little of their zip-a-dee-doo-dah.
While prior research suggested that midlife is a time of increased happiness, since 2010, the middle years have lost their joyful edge. So say the new findings, culled from 1.3 million Americans aged 13 to 96. Now, adults 30 and older are no happier than younger people.
Put another way? We’re less likely to be happier than our parents; our kids are likely to be happier than we were.
The shift may have occurred because of the recent cultural focus on following your dreams, which can feel good when you’re young, but not as satisfying as we grow older, says Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. at San Diego State University, the study’s lead author. And there’s also been an increase in individualism, which she says is “a cultural system that places more emphasis on the self and less on social rules. For example, an individualistic culture encourages positive self-views, which often includes high expectations.” More individualism might also mean that older people are getting less of the social support and sense of community that they need.