Thursday September 08, 2022

The Happiness Curve is not U-curve at all

The Happiness Curve is not U-curve at all

Representational image.

Apparently the “U” curve for happiness is all wrong. What the curve says is that when people are really young they tend to be happy but as they approach middle age they are not so happy. Then as they advance into old age, they become more and more happy. Of course it’s wrong. It may only be correct for some countries like the Netherlands where, on average, people seem to be happy throughout their lives.

When we’re younger, we enjoy university, having fun with friends and being busy taking care of the children and the spouse. I guess people are so busy they don’t have time to think about if they’re happy or not. They don’t have time to think, full stop. When you’re not thinking about your feelings, you’re neither happy nor sad.

Now the curve might be on the upside in younger age groups but, in my view, people look outwardly lively so everyone assumes they are happy and without a care in the world. But that’s not to say that their priorities are completely different from those in their middle age or the elderly.

I’ve joined a number of Facebook groups in the UAE. Most of the members in these groups are very young and I’m baffled by some of their posts requesting help on ‘urgent matters’. Those urgent matters being? Help, my hair is too dry. Where can I get Botox? Where can I get my nails done in a hurry? Where can I get plastic surgery? Anyone know where I can buy this black dress? How can I get smoky eyes with my makeup? You get the picture, right? These people appear to be unhappy and so the first peak of the U-curve appears to be incorrect — even if it is for the most trivial of reasons!

And here I am wondering how much longer I can spend money to renew my next visit visa. Wishing I had a good friend to talk to since I’m way past making new friends. Wondering how my mum will be after her stroke.

Wondering how I’m going to manage living in unmentionable conditions! Wondering if I should stay in the UAE or move back to the UK since I’m advancing in years. I also ask myself, am I happy? The answer is always no. Do I remember the last time I was really happy? The answer is, again, no. Do I know what will make me happy? Maybe. Can I have it, or achieve it, in order to try to be happy? No, at least not yet. I wish I had the problems that those Facebook group people have.

I’m sure there are many in my age group who feel the same way I do and so I believe that the trough of the U-curve is correct too but for seriously good reasons.

As old age approaches, that’s the 70s and upwards, problems escalate further. People start to lose family and friends. The former is a real loss if you were close, like I was with my dad. People also start to get sicker and weaker. People at that age have trouble getting out of bed because they feel constantly tired or unwell.

They also worry about the cost of food and utilities since now the only income they have on which to rely is their pension and whatever savings they may have. Sometimes they don’t have any savings at all and the pension can be minuscule, or late at best.

Most elderly in the west are living alone or in care homes. Both are not great prospects if the elderly person is poor and sickly. They usually get few or no visitors because they’ve been abandoned by their children and most of their good friends have passed away or are struggling in other care homes.

It’s true that they no longer have to worry about a difficult boss or having to meet a project deadline or have that niggling unfulfilled ambition that they were constantly trying to achieve when they were much younger. But that being said, many elderly people are also plagued by regret of not having done the things they wanted to do or by things they did and wish they had not. They also worry about if they are going to die alone and many do, especially if they live alone. So the second peak of the U-curve is completely wrong.  

It seems that when the happiness survey was being conducted, the team that carried out the study overlooked all the critical factors that I’ve just mentioned above. The happiness curve is not a U-curve at all but more of a slanted L shape where the lower part of the L seems to reflect the life of the middle aged and the elderly.  

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