A 2008 telephone survey of more than 350,000 people from all regions of the United States confirms that life does indeed get better after the age of 50 years. This is good news for nurse educators because so many of us fall into this demographic.
Arthur Stone of Stony Brook University in New York State examined happiness, anxiety, and worry using questions related to the emotions volunteer participants felt the day before the phone call. This strategy moved away from the traditional approach to examining global well-being that asks people to report general feelings related to their lives.
Stone and his team found that global well-being decreases between the ages 20s and 50s. But then happiness and enjoyment steadily increase after age 50 years. Sadness is flat throughout the age groups surveyed, but Stone reports many other negative feelings decline as we age. Worry is fairly constant until age 50 years, and then it drops. Anger falls at a steady rate after the 20s. The emotion identified as stress peaks in the 20s, drops slightly, and then drops noticeably after age 50 years. Results are fairly consistent for both sexes. Women report a greater sense of global well-being than do men at all ages. However, women also report more stress, more worry, and being sadder than men at all ages.
Laura Carstensen, a life-span developmental psychologist at Stanford, attributes the decline in negative emotions to older people being better at regulating their emotions. She adds that as we age we perceive our time "running out" and may be more careful about the focus of our emotions.
Researchers report being excited about Stone's nontraditional approach to measuring global well-being. Carstensen supports the methodology, commenting that the results correspond well with traditional studies. Other researchers have identified additional uses of Stone's survey including identifying improved quality of life related to medical treatment or examining the well-being of people residing in a particular city, country, or region.
Source: Fields H. Golden years truly are golden. ScienceNOW. May 17, 2010. Available at http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/05/golden-years-truly-are-golden.html. Accessed May 18, 2010.
Submitted by: Robin Pattillo, PhD, RN, News Editor at NENewsEditor@gmail.com.