Martha at That'sFit discovered an interesting survey about aging and happiness that surprised the hell out of Crabby.
It was conducted by a Big Bank (HSBC), not a team of smarty-pants researchers from a University, but it was large (21,000 people) and included people age 40-80 in 21 different countries.
And guess what? They found more people in their 60's and 70's reported being happy than people in their 40's.
This is encouraging, isn't it? Because we're all going to get older, at least until the scientists discover how to make aging optional.
And some of us are perhaps not entirely sure we're looking forward to our Seventies and beyond. We fear Alzheimer's and achy joints and bypass surgeries. In the drugstore aisles we push our shopping carts briskly past the Depends and the Dentu-grip and the Metamucil and the Special Toilet Booster Seats and try to assure ourselves we'll never need them. Perhaps we've even peeked inside a nursing home or two and seen groups of frail elders wrapped in plaid blankets staring slack-jawed at Golden Girls reruns. We've thought: Yikes, that doesn't look all that appealing.
But it turns out, according to researchers--the elderly are not just as happy as we are, they're happier!
The article goes on to quote various experts who offer their theories about why we tend to get happier as we age--there's some interesting information in there. And Crabby is open to the idea that in our journey from our childhoods to our "golden years," we might indeed become increasingly content. But she is not entirely convinced that people in their 70's and beyond are really a whole lot happier than people in their 40's.
Mainly it's because Crabby has trouble with any of the studies or surveys that try to measure and compare how happy people are by asking them how happy they are.
When you ask a person "are you happy," or in this case, "were you happy most of the time in the previous week," are you measuring happiness? Or are you measuring honesty?
Or, even more confusing, are you measuring cultural attitudes about what "happiness" means and how you're supposed to feel, and what you're supposed to say when a complete stranger asks you a binary question that's meant to sum up a lot of complicated and charged emotional territory in your life?
Crabby thinks it's equally possible that people born in the 1960's or later are more willing to say to a stranger, "This week wasn't the happiest ever" than people who were born in the 1930's. Even if the same number of people had less-than-happy weeks.
And here's where the skewed world view of Crabby McSlacker might become apparent to readers who havn't caught on to her yet. She thinks most folks aren't nearly as happy as the studies say they are.
Which is not to say they're Unhappy either!
Crabby just thinks these studies aren't very good at capturing true states of mind. Because they make it sound like people are deliriously happy most of the time, and Crabby just isn't buying it.
When Happiness Researchers compare statistics about how happy people are, they're often comparing numbers like 80% vs. 90% of people being happy. In this study, for example, 78% of U.S. respondents in their 40's, 87% of those in their 60's, and 89% of those in their 70's said they were "happy most of the time in the previous week."
Really? Almost ninety percent of people are walking around being "happy most of the time?"
Crabby has talked to and shared experiences with many friends and acquaintances. She has observed people in public. She has been in DMV lines and dentist's offices and grocery stores; but she has also been in places people go for "fun" like and restaurants and amusement parks. Are some of them happy, some of the time? Sure! Are almost all of them happy most of the time? No! She swears this is just not true.
Most people spend a lot of time just being... average. Neutral. Not happy, not unhappy, just There, just Existing. And there's nothing wrong with that. That's normal, that's life! Is that the new "Happy?" If you're There, if you Exist, then you're Happy? Perhaps actual "happiness," as Crabby understands and appreciates it, has lost its meaning.
And it's ironic, because Crabby, despite being crabby about health matters, actually feels she is a Happy person herself! She believes she spends more time content, engaged, happy, or even ecstatic than the "average" person does, based on what she has observed. If you saw her in the grocery store, she would probably smile at you. And she would not get all grouchy with the cashier, even a slow fumbly one, like some people do, because she is usually in a Good mood not a Bad one.
But like anyone, she spends a lot of time in "Neutral." She even has occasional frustrating moments. Do 70 year olds spend more time feeling ecstatic and less time feeling frustrated than she does? Perhaps they do. But Crabby is not trusting any of these surveys to give tell her the whole story of who "who is happier," at least until they figure out how to ask their questions better.
So what do you all think about Relative Happiness?