When are the happiest years of your life?

People are happiest from about 50 to 70.Photo / Thinkstock
People are happiest from about 50 to 70.Photo / Thinkstock

The happiest times of your life are unlikely to be at the beginning or the end - or even in the middle.

Researchers who have gone through the data in Australia, Britain and Germany reckon the golden years arrive as we contemplate retirement and depart when illness and decrepitude set in.

"There's almost no change in happiness between the age of 20 and 50," Queensland University of Technology researcher Tony Beatton said.

"It kicks up at age 53 to 70-odd, when there is a major decline."

Middle-aged people get buffeted by knocks like marriage break-up and financial worries, but after this, "they get rid of their kids, they've paid for their house and their leisure is increasing," Beatton said.

He looked at data on 60,000 people gleaned from the annual Household Income Labour Dynamics Australia reports, from the British Household Panel Survey and the German Socioeconomic Panel.

In Australia, happiness peaks at age 65, in Britain at 70 and in Germany also at 65, but at a lower level.

"Life appears to simply get worse and worse in Germany after the age of 18," Beatton said.

"But there could be a selection effect going on here. I don't believe the Germans are more miserable than anybody else."

It might be that happier Germans head for retirement homes abroad, leaving a less-happy cohort to report on their lives to those doing the Socioeconomic Panel survey.

There is also the possibility of a selection effect skewing the data from all three countries.

"We know that happier people live longer," Beatton said.

"So we've got miserable people dropping off along the way and all we've got left is happy folk."

- DPA

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