Great News: Your 30s Are Still Going To Be The Worst
For young people, life is supposed to magically come together when you hit your 30s. You'll finally settle down, have kids, and get that high-paying job that also lets you have a life at the same time. Because your 20s are confusing and weird and just the worst, right? Well, sorry to be a buzzkill, but a new study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, just busted that myth. It turns out that people over 30 are getting less and less happy, while young people are the ones loving life.
Jean Twenge and her team of researchers at San Diego State University looked at data from 1972 to 2014, covering 1.3 million Americans between the ages of 13 and 96. Each participant was asked if they were very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy.
Though the assumption used to be that people get happier and happier from adolescence into retirement, with the peak in your 60s and 70s, that's not always the case anymore. In the past five years, teens have gotten happier, while adults, especially those over 30, are getting steadily less happy. Starting in 2010, there was no positive correlation between getting older and getting happier. Looks like it's all downhill from 30 on.
So why the sudden change? Twenge says it's all about expectations. Most high school students these days expect to have a managerial or professional job by 30, but the number of those actual jobs hasn't gone up to meet that expectation. That inevitably leads to disappointment. "Big dreams feel great when you're an adolescent or a young adult just starting out," Twenge writes in The Atlantic. "But somewhere around their late 20s, most people begin to realize reality isn't going to match up." And with income inequality getting worse and worse, so is the disappointing feeling that you might not do as well as your parents did.
Another factor is what Twenge calls "individualism," or the focus on oneself rather than the community. It's great when you're young and figuring yourself out, but it can come as a real shock when you hit 30 and have a spouse, kids, and a retirement account to put first. And modern technology keeps us glued to our phones, avoiding close relationships that can boost happiness.
But before you sink into a life crisis, keep in mind that one in three Americans still say they're very happy. Just don't expect a sudden mood boost after every birthday.