Feeling dissatisfied with your life as you approach middle age? A little worried about life at 50?
Here's the good news from a recent study: You've probably hit bottom and you're headed up -- possibly to new heights.
An analysis of a 2008 Gallup poll, which surveyed more than 340,000 adults ages 18 to 85, suggests an antidote to feelings of stress and worry. It's not a new car or a new spouse. It's age.
Here's what to expect as you get older:
In general, feelings of well-being are pretty high among older teenagers, but fall sharply through age 25, meander a bit for 10 years, then drop off again until about age 50. That's when things start looking up.
By age 75, you may be feeling like a teenager again, at least in your sense of well-being. It keeps getting better until at least age 85, the study says.
To researchers' surprise, the pattern wasn't much affected by unemployment, lack of a partner, children at home or gender -- although women tended to score a little lower than men.
Researchers also found that stress and anger declined steeply from the early 20s, worry built until middle age and then dropped, and sadness was fairly steady throughout adulthood.
But feelings of enjoyment and happiness dropped slightly until the mid-50s, rose to previous highs around age 70 and pretty much stayed there.
The study was conducted by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University in New York and published by the National Academy of Sciences.
"Why are older people, on average, happier and less stressed then younger people?" the researchers wondered. At this point, they guess, maybe older people gain "increased 'wisdom' and emotional intelligence ... (and) are more effective at regulating their emotions than younger people."
Lead researcher professor Arthur Stone said the answers may lie in our environment, psychology and biology -- how we live, what we think about it and how our chemistry responds to that.