Is that a smile on your face or are you just happy to be 50-plus?

June 2
A new Gallup survey of more than 340,000 Americans ranging in age from 18 to 85
has found overwhelming evidence that, by almost any measure, people get happier
as they get older
. No one knows exactly why, but people seem to
get happier as they pass the age of 50. Arthur A. Stone, the lead researcher of
the Gallup study thinks there are several reasons why. ‘It could be that there
are environmental changes or it could be psychological changes about the way we
view the world, or it could even be biological – for example brain chemistry or
endocrine changes.’ In other words, Dr. Stone has about as much insight on this
strange phenomenon as, say, BP does in figuring out to cap that damn oil well
in the Gulf of Mexico.

says the researchers, stays fairly steady through life and then sharply drops
off after age 50 (hmmmm…). Anger decreases steadily from age 18 on (I know quite
a few Millennials who don’t fit that descriptor). Sadness rises to a peak at
50, declines at age 73 and then rises again at 85 (perhaps coinciding with an
impending sense of one’s own mortality?). Enjoyment and happiness have similar
curves: they both decrease until we hit 50, rise steadily for the next quarter
century and take a final nose dive towards oblivion.

ambivalent about the 50-plus equals happiness thing.

certainly happier now than I was as a struggling high school adolescent. And,
while there were some world-class highs in my 20s and 30s, I don’t think I was
as consistently happy as I am now. I think that coincides with a simultaneous
sense of accomplishment and lessening of uncertainty (i.e. I always panicked
about future career choices, about whether to remain single or get married,
about whether to have children, about whether to continue rooting for the
hapless Mets, etc.). Now, lots of those figurative Rubicon’s have been crossed.
And, I can focus on doing more of what makes even happier: rock, ice and
mountain climbing, stand-up comedy, brainstorming innovative, if half-baked,
innovations for Peppercom and bashing NJ Transit, my former CEO at Brouillard
and a certain
Fortune 500 client that put a whipping on us up worse than
what Muhammad Ali did to  Sonny Liston

I wanted to test the 50-plus theory with people I see in the media everyday to
see if it holds true:

1) BP
CEO Tony Hayward is 52 and sure seems unhappy to me. He even lamented yesterday
that he ‘…wanted his life back.’ Poor thing. The oil spill seems to have
disrupted his life. Wonder if it’s had a similar effect on others? Either way,
I’ll bet we’ll see Hayward’s pearly whites again once we start seeing clear
blue seas in the Gulf.

2) Betty
White is positively ecstatic in the midst of her personal renaissance. She’s
living what I’d call the George Burns syndrome. Burns enjoyed a similar late
career rebirth about 20 years ago (think: the ‘Oh God’ movies, Tonight Show
appearances and countless comedy tours). Burns said of his sudden popularity,
‘I’m so old that I’m young.’ That captures the Betty White phenomenon for me.

3) Sally
Field seems quite happy now that she’s shilling for Boniva and taking care of
the one body that’s been given to her.

4) Andy
Rooney never seems happy. I’ll bet he was a grumpy 12-year-old. Maybe it’s
because his eyebrows have always partially obscured his vision.

5) Donald
Trump’s permanently pissed off. I guess the combination of the comb-over and
firing people keeps him angry.

6) Clint
Eastwood just turned 80 and still seems ready to empty the chambers of his 9mm
Glock into some bad guy’s head.

7) Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem any happier now than the rock star who
burst onto the public scene in 1992 as part of the Billary ticket. She seems
more resigned than contented.

8) Mets
Manager Jerry Manuel is always happy, even when his team implodes and loses by
a score of 18-6. He’s either programmed that way or is ingesting some serious
mood-altering drugs.

9) Osama
bin Laden doesn’t seem particularly happy whenever he resurfaces to issue the
latest Jihad warning. Turning 50 a few years back doesn’t seem to have mellowed
this particular terrorist. And, do the Gallup findings apply to terrorists as
well? One would think most never live to see 50, so it’s probably a moot issue.

10)  For
someone who pulls down $18mm a year, Katie Couric doesn’t seem very happy.
Pert, yes. Happy? I’m not so sure.

you buy into the 50-plus makes one happy findings? I remain skeptical. I think
a combination of genetics and the environment do factor into one’s happiness.
In the final analysis, though, we determine our own happiness. I can be
miserable working for a 65-year-old CEO who second-guesses my every move or
reporting into a corporate PR director who says nice things to my face but
backstabs my agency behind my back. Or, I can choose to pursue the things in
life that put a smile on my face. The sooner one learns what those ‘things’
are, the sooner one finds happiness. Sorry, Gallup, but age has nothing to do
with it.

15 thoughts on “Is that a smile on your face or are you just happy to be 50-plus?

  1. Thanks Ken. I’m the same way. Interesting how life changes us. And, I used to think I knew all there was to know when I was 25.

  2. I know it’s just anecdotal, but I’m infinitely happier since turning the big 5-0. I got smarter, or realized how smart I was all along. I got the guts to go out and create the kind of business I always wanted. (Steve, you just figured this out earlier than many of us!) I challenged myself to understand and use social media strategies (Still working on that.) Most of all, after turning 50, I felt an enormous increase in my appreciation for my family, my “real” friends, my virtual friends and my friends from the business world who make me think, who lend me support, and make me laugh. Some of them have really good blogs 🙂

  3. I’d agree. I also think this is one of those surveys created just to have a survey to garner some publicity for Gallup. It serves no real purpose and sheds no new light on the subject (if, indeed, happiness and aging were ever conjoined subjects to begin with). It’s also clear that even the ‘expert’ quoted in the survey findings had no real clue why certain ‘happiness patterns’ occurred at all. Why worry? Be happy.

  4. Not hating on Katie, Gaetano. Just sharing my POV that she seems unhappy and has a rep for making those around her unhappy. As for your prediliction for women who administer pain, I say whatever floats your boat.

  5. That’s fascinating, Linda. Gaetano, one of our regular contributors, was convinced he’d die at 26. Yet, here he is decades later still posting comments on the Repman blog. I’d agree that 28 is a good age since, for many of us, it signals our physical peak. But, were you really happy at 28? That was whirlwind year for me. I changed jobs, got married and bought my first house. Way too much stress for this blogger. Give me a relatively calm year crammed with all the stuff I like doing and I’ll give you my definition of happiness. But, hey, that’s me. BTW, all time favorite song on the subject of aging? Francis Albert Sinatra’s ‘When I was 17.’

  6. I don’t think an arbitrary number can be put on happiness… I’m sure there are just as many miserable 50-plus year olds as there are 30-somethings… And happiness is relative anyway… I think it’s more about being comfortable in your own skin, no matter what your chronological age.

  7. Hey Rep…don’t be hating on Katie…maybe it’s my Catholic School training…I can only love women who can potentially bring me pain. Kind of like rooting for the Mets. K-Rod will find a way to deliver the pain.

  8. I think I was happier when I was younger and more ignorant – the old ‘ignorance is bliss’ thing. The perfect age to be, I’ve decided, is 28.

  9. Very Zen-like on your part, Lunch. Thanks for the input. Age does bring perspective and, hopefully, some wisdom. The downside is it also brings physical degradation. Which is why someone once said youth is lost on the young. Wouldn’t it be great to have a brand new body to implement all the lessons learned in life up until this point?

  10. I can share that I find happiness while I am on the NJ shore…make that South Jersey (I am not a Neanderthal).
    In terms of finding personal happiness, I’d have to agree with points made by Greg. Things become easier as we grow older, become better at our trade and earn a better wage. Sure, I would like to be 25 years old again, 25 pounds lighter, and have 25 more strands of hair on my noggin, but that will likely mean that I would be earning less and worrying more.
    At the same time, though, as we continue to succeed and gain accolades within our trade and from our peers, what does it all really mean? I can’t take vintage car with me when I am gone, so do I really need it? Will people talk about how smart I was to earn that MBA or will they remember me because I was (hopefully) “diabolically clever” once or twice while in their presence?
    I’ve had happy times then and now, but some shitty times along the way, too. I think the key word, and something that might be tough to Gallup to survey would be “perspective.” I’m halfway to 35, have never been happier and feel that my perspective on life helps drive my emotions.
    So, I agree with you that it is not all about age, but the lessons that come with the years play into our level of happiness.

  11. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Gaetano. Industry rumor mills certainly portray Ms Couric as anything but a happy person (and, certainly not someone who makes those around her happy). So, who would you list in her place?

  12. I think you got it wrong about Katie Couric…I think you are mistaking her serious newsperson side with being unhappy. If you take a look at @katiecouric (note: I have the iPhone app) Katie is a beautiful, delightful and happy human being.

  13. Excellent points, Greg. Happiness is certainly relative and my definition probably varies from yours and everyone else’s.

  14. Obviously, everyone is dealt a different hand in life. I think you touched on the key points — looking for work in early years, contemplating marriage, starting a family, raising the kids, making sure they are educated and prepared for the future. Now, that they are grown, have matured and have graduated, I’m sure you have fewer worries and concerns. But, should one lose a job or have troubles finding one, you and your wife will be there to comfort and assist where you can.
    Happier? I suppose you can use that word. I think people would have a problem describing happiness. It amazes me how the economy is still tight, yet people are out there spending like they don’t have a care in the world. Are they happy? Possibly. But when the credit card statements come in at the end of the month or they reach retirement age and they don’t have anything set aside, then ask them if they are happy.
    And I’m not trying to equate happiness to money. To me, family and friends are what are paramount. But let’s face it, you can’t put gas in the car, food on the table or pay the mortgage without some sort of income.
    I think the aging process also limits us or helps slow us down physically. I know from my personal experience that I can’t keep the pace I did when I was 30.
    But I can be happy with what I accomplished for the day and am grateful for what I have. In other words, not sure if I am happy, but know that I am blessed.