How Your Age Determines What Makes You Happy

Happiness — an ever-elusive state of being that we unceasingly chase, even though we know it is an inevitably temporary companion.

The question of what makes us truly happy is more philosophical than practical, yet science continues to try and pinpoint the perfect formula for human euphoria.

A spate of recent investigations has led to various conclusions about happiness; the most important of which is that money and pleasure are only related inasmuch as the former can be used to create the kinds of positive life experiences that produce the latter. Translation: Instead of spending your yearly bonus on a new gadget or article of clothing, you’re better off putting those funds towards a vacation with your family, or a trip to the theater with your friends.

“Despite the allure of acquiring material possession, people should acquire experiences to enjoy greater happiness,” remark the authors of a new study examining what kinds of experiences make us most content. Conducted by experts from Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business, the investigation concluded that the kinds of experiences that produce the most happiness vary, based mainly on one factor: a person’s age.

Having a shorter future impacts your perspective

Across a series of eight separate studies, researchers compared the impact of ordinary, everyday events (Cuddling on the couch with a loved one, going for a bike ride, having a conversation with a good friend) versus extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime events (going to a Bob Dylan concert, diving a blue hole in Belize, getting married) on an individual’s overall sense of happiness.

While extraordinary events were powerful mood-boosters, regardless of how old a person was, ordinary events were less likely to impress the young. It seems that the ability to recognize the beauty in everyday occurrences appears to grow as we age.

Study authors attribute their findings to the differences in how people define themselves during various stages of their lives, saying, “Self-definition drives these effects: although extraordinary experiences are self-defining throughout life, as people get older they increasingly define themselves by the ordinary experiences that comprise their daily lives.”

According to previous research, when we’re young and our lives seem to stretch out before us, we tend to thrive on new, exciting experiences. But as our time on the planet grows short, we often find greater contentment in experiences that foster calmness and peace.

What’s your take on these findings? Are you more drawn to exhilarating events, or life’s quiet moments? How has your perception of happiness changed as you’ve gotten older?

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By Anne-Marie Botek, Editor


Kath P.
Kath P2 years ago

A day without pain is always a holiday. I feel light and airy and full of joy. Thank goodness most days are pain free.

Deborah W.
Deborah W2 years ago


If you knew for sure today was going to be your last, how would you spend it? What's most important to you says the most about you? You've gotten to this point through personal choices ... you own it.

Living in the now is all-important, but drawing on past history, adjusted over time by age, experience, health, traumatic events in your life brings you to where you are now. Like it? If not, change it.

Good news is tomorrow probably won't be your last, and each day is a gift, brand new and full os possibilities ... that's why they call it THE PRESENT.

Kamia T.
Kamia T3 years ago

As we age, we are granted the privilege of perspective. In my 20's, I didn't even know what I didn't know. As I moved forward in adulthood, I tried as hard as I could at that point to do well, but as you get older, you can look back and see where you made mistakes. Coming to terms with your life and no longer lusting after more, more more, do make the later years more satisfying.

Sindi s.
Katie S3 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Eileen Mary P.
Eileen P3 years ago

As I get older I'm more sure of what will cause happiness for me, and I am proactive in directing my life experiences so that I am fulfilling myself as much as I can, in a good way of course!

Colin Hope
Colin Hope3 years ago

Thanks for sharing!!

tanzy t.
tanzy t3 years ago

Things dont make you happy people do.

Denise E.
Denise E3 years ago

I agree, as I have got older I see things much differently, am much more grateful for all that I have, am more aware and want to give more x

Summerannie Moon
Summerannie M3 years ago

Over your life you have wonderful moments, years and we evolve. We evolve by our own undertaking as well as situations that can send may impact on us. It's also to do either attitude and how you feel within for the only place the within goes is out. It's a state of being. When you're in this state and happy then ppl will be drawn to you like velcro.
I love that part of being and bring me.

More so this week because my life's ending flashed before my eyes last Sunday in a blink of an eye, when a crazy speeding driver decided to park his car right where I was walking and he had nearly all of the under ground car park to choose from. He TG missed me by around 2 inches. Someone was looking after both of us and it wasn't my time to leave the planet.
I AM very happy about that and him as well.
Whew it was a very close call.
I still get the shivers.

Kimberly C.
Kimberly C3 years ago

Life - and the passage of time - is all a matter of perspective.

As we age, we have less to prove. The simple things in life can sometimes be the most meaningful. As I care for my 96 year old uncle, he finds joy in just being able to do the activities of daily living that the rest of us take for granted.