August 19, 2014

What's the Best Age to Be?

At the beginning of my “career” as a blogger, I described 2010 -- my first full year as a newly diagnosed Parkinsonian -- as the best year of my life. Knowing about -- and facing -- this disease gave my life new energy, challenge, and focus. Of course, some of the inevitable effects of the disease are catching up with me these days. But four years ago… well… the Parkinson’s honeymoon was just beginning, and things looked pretty good.

That assessment about happiness at 80 turns out not to be completely odd after all.

An article published August 6, 2014 on titled "What’s The Best Age To Be?" got my attention, and reminded me of my pronouncement about 2010.

Here are some of the answers to that question.

It’s 29
A survey of 1,505 Britons by Genius Gluten Free found that – at 29 years of age – people had the greatest number of friends. The more friends we have, the happier we are? I see people on Facebook with more than a thousand friends and they don’t often seem very happy to me.

It’s Before 25
A highly unscientific commentary in the “Onion” suggested that a group of retirees reported making the most important or life-changing memories before age 25. That’s another bizarre definition of happiness.

It’s 28 for the Ladies
Clairol Perfect 10 – a hair color brand – commissioned a study of 4,000 women. The results?
  • At 28, women are most happy about their sex lives.
  • At 29, women as most happy about their careers.
  • By 30, women are happiest with their relationships.
Hmmm. Sex, work, and relationships. All important stuff. But markers -- by themselves -- for happiness? Again, way too simplistic.

It’s 34
In a ridiculously unscientific and wacky review on Gawker, Tom Scocca rated all ages up until age 40. His conclusions? Thirteen was the worst, and 34 the best. But let’s move on.

It’s 37
A collection of deodorant manufacturers asked 2,000 Britons about the issue. Results? Age 37 was the average age by which the study subjects felt they would have achieved their important life goals.

Here’s what that graphic looked like:

It’s 70 and Up
The Gallup organization asked 85,145 American adults this question: "On a five-point scale, where 5 means strongly agree and 1 means strongly disagree, please rate your level of agreement with the following item – You always feel good about your physical appearance." 

I was delighted to see that the highest marks for men came from survey participants between 80-84 years of age.

Again, we’ve got a pretty strange criterion: Happiness as contentment with physical appearance? Fun, but that’s about it.

It’s 23… and 69
The London School of Economics’ Center for Economic Performance asked 23,161 Germans about their life satisfaction. Interestingly, it peaked twice: when subjects were 23 and again at 69. As a corollary to the survey, organizers asked respondents to gaze into the crystal ball and guess where their life satisfaction would be five years into the future.
Adults tended to overestimate future satisfaction most when they were in their 20s. From there, they continued to feel better about the future than the present – in a diminishing trend – until they were about 55, when their predictions about future satisfaction were the most grim. From that point on – and peaking at 69 – those Germans thought their satisfaction with life was even higher than they’d imagined it would be.

This review – perhaps the most scientific of these overviews – makes some sense to me.

It’s Between 82 and 85
A team from Stony Brook University assessed polling data from 340,847 Americans, who were asked to "imagine a ladder with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?” 

While the results showed a pattern similar to the data from the German study above – with satisfaction highest in study subjects who were in their 20s and those much later in life – the highest marks went to individuals between 82 and 85.

Now we’re talking!

Of course, “happiness” and “life satisfaction” are conditions infinitely more varied and complicated than those – like assessment of physical appearance -- covered in this overview. Still, I’m liking the Stony Brook conclusion most… thinking – and hoping – that my best possible life is happening right now.

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