Are your university days the best years of your life? Or did you peak in high school as the captain of the football team, dating cheerleaders and stuffing nerds into garbage cans? How about your twenties when you’re inventing your adult self but are still largely unburdened by the responsibilities of family and mortgage?

A new survey of people aged 40 and over asked 2,000 participants to look back over their lives and reflect on their happiness levels at each decade. They also noted what it was about that period that made them the happiest.

For example, people who were the most content in their twenties cited reasons such as: I was young and physically fit, I partied a lot/travelled a lot, I had flings/played the field.

Admittedly, all of those things do sound pretty good.

However, for the greatest number of participants, the happiest period of live seems to come at about age 34. It is in the mid-thirties that most people found the things that brought them the most long-term happiness.

Reasons participants listed their thirties are the happiest:

  • I met someone I fell in love with
  • I got married
  • I had children
  • I got a great new job/made a career change
  • Bought my first home

“Getting on the property ladder was a recurring theme throughout the study and the age a person gets their first home often correlated with the happiest year they chose,” says Nigel Fisher, Managing Director of Yale security who commissioned the study.

Love also has a lot to do with it. One of the key reasons behind being most happy included “meeting someone I fell in love with,” which was listed as one of the happiest moments for people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. “Getting married” also appears as a peak moment in every decade.

Also contrary to what many would assume, people surveyed were more likely to say that that they had become happier along the way as they had grown older rather than the other way around. Growing up, settling down, and growing older makes us happier.

Establishing your career path, buying a home, and starting your family seem to make the teenage angst and the struggles of your twenties all worthwhile.

Also, y’know, as they say, the best part of being over 40 is that you were able to get all of your ‘youthful indiscretions’ out of the way before there was social media to document and share all the dumb things we did.

Anyway, perhaps I am biased towards liking this study. I met my (and married) my wife when I was thirty-five, then had a son, and bought a house within a few years of that. And this has been the happiest period of my life.

How about you? What was your best decade? Please, share what makes you the happiest.

Source: Happiness starts at 34

See also:

The simple secret formula for finding your ideal job
The happiest high-paying jobs
Three keys to success: The only career advice I would offer my child


Peter Harris
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