People tend to get happier as they age. But senior citizen’s overall well-being depends on the era in which they were born, a new report shows. For example, adults who lived through the Great Depression tend to report lower levels of well-being than those who were raised in more recent prosperous times, researchers say. You may also want to check out the study that tells seniors, “Each Generation Is Happier Than the Last,” published in The Atlantic – February 8, 2013.
You’ll be happier in the future than you are now, a new study in the journal Psychological Science found, but your overall well-being also depends on when you were born, and what you’ve lived through. “Well-being” is a pretty nebulous measure, but it definitely sounds like something you would want to strive for. Here, it takes into account individuals’ current symptoms of depression, along with reflections on how they’ve lived: “I enjoyed life,” “I felt I was just as good as other people,” “I felt hopeful about the future,” and “I was happy.” And well-being, looked at in several thousand adults who had been followed and assessed repeatedly over an average of 30 years of life, appeared to reliably decline with age. Older adults, on the whole, were faring worse than younger generations. Read the whole story: The Atlantic, the Association for Psychological Science writes on their website.
Check out the site, Happiness Grows with Age, But Depends on Generation – LiveScience – February 11, 2013, which reports that “When individuals make judgments about their well-being, those judgments reflect more than just an assessment of the individual’s current situation.” Researchers, led by Angelina R. Sutin of Florida State University, wrote in their report in the journal Psychological Science that “Along with factors such as personality, life events, and demographic characteristics, the sociocultural environment in which individuals grow up may also contribute to ratings of well-being.” Now a new study says how you treat others may depend upon whether you’re married, in a relationship, or single.
Specifically researched found that the slope of declining well-being with age reversed direction: Well-being actually improved with age
The confused occurred because the two main samples that this research drew upon were collected at different times. Scientists looked at an 80-year-old in one sample taken at one time in history, for example. Adults who shared a birth cohort, or as we tend to think of it, belonged to the same generation, tended to start out at similar baselines of well-being. People born at the turn of the 20th century, between 1885 and 1925, started out lowest on the well-being scale. Each successive generation, stretching across almost a century to people born in 1980, had a slightly more positive outlook. Life satisfaction increases the longer you live. Researchers found intergenerational discrepencies. But what were those discrepencies really due to other than better health care or advances in technology that make life easier– three figure social security retirement income on which some seniors are totally dependent as their only income?
Scientists concluded that life satisfaction increases with life lived. But some of us start out more satisfied than others. The study’s authors call it “the legacy of economic hard times.” The lasting effects of having through the Great Depression, they posit, may have contributed to the lower well-being of their older cohort, according to the Atlantic magazine article. Even those who ended up successful despite the harshness of the times — such as by achieving high levels of education — were nonetheless “stunted.” Advances in medicine and the loosening of social norms may also have played a role in the intergenerational discrepancies.
Isolated seniors on Valentine’s Day
How are seniors in mood and outlook when Valentine’s Day arrives next week, and many are single, widowed, or divorced? How many people send Valentine’s Day gifts and cards to isolated seniors in nursing homes, their own homes, or assisted living complexes (compared to neighborhood children who humiliate, tease, or intimidate old people simply because of their looks, poverty level, or gait?
With Valentine’s Day looming, many married couples will wish marital bliss for their single friends. At the same time, many singles will pity their coupled friends’ loss of freedom. People like to believe that their way of life — whether single or coupled — is the best for everyone, especially if they think their relationship status is unlikely to change, according to a study forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The latest article on this study is, “‘The Way I Am is the Way You Ought to Be’: Perceiving One’s Relational Status as Unchangeable Motivates Normative Idealization of that Status.” Also see the article, “Aging in Brain Found to Hurt Sleep Needed for Memory – The New York Times.”
The study suggests that this bias may influence how we treat others, even in situations where relationship status shouldn’t matter
Research shows that feeling “stuck” within a particular social system leads people to justify and rationalize that system. Researchers Kristin Laurin of the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and David Kille and Richard Eibach of the University of Waterloo wondered whether this kind of rationalization might also apply to a person’s relationship status.
“We often become evangelists for our own lifestyles,” the researchers observe, according to the February 11, 2013 news release, How you treat others may depend on whether you’re single or attached. “When it comes to our relationship status, we are rarely content to simply say ‘being single works for me’ or ‘being in a relationship suits my disposition.’”
Ironically, people may idealize their own status as a way of dealing with the unsatisfactory aspects of that status. Laurin and colleagues hypothesized that this would happen most often when people think their relationship status won’t change. And this is exactly what they found. Their first study revealed that the more stable participants considered their relationship status to be, the more they idealized that status as a norm for others to follow. This applied to both single and coupled participants, regardless of how personally happy they were with their status.
For their second study, the researchers decided to take advantage of Valentine’s Day, an annual event that seems to put everyone’s relationship status front and center.
They recruited participants on Valentine’s Day and asked them to imagine a Valentine’s Day evening for a hypothetical person of the same gender, Nicole or Nick. Participants who judged their own relationship status to be stable imagined that Nicole/Nick would have a happier and more fulfilling Valentine’s Day if s/he had the same status as them; they gave less positive judgments when Nicole/Nick’s relationship status was different from theirs.
To investigate whether this bias might influence how we actually behave toward others, Laurin and colleagues conducted two more studies, this time experimentally manipulating perceived stability. Participants who were led to perceive greater stability in their relationship status judged same-status job candidates more positively, although they weren’t more likely to hire them. Participants were more likely to vote for a same-status political candidate, however, when they had information that gave them an excuse to express their bias. Also see the article, Dear Valentine, I Hate It When You … – The New York Times – February 11, 2013. If you really want to improve your relationship, the article explains, you should give your loved one an i.o.u.
Find a nice piece of stationery, and in your most graceful lettering, assert: “I promise to write about our next three fights as though I were a neutral observer.” Then, doodle a heart on the page, stick it in a pretty envelope and give it to that special someone over dinner, the article says. When the data from all four studies were combined into one analysis, the results showed that perceived stability led both coupled and single participants to treat others like them more favorably. The fact that this relationship bias can influence our behavior towards others is significant:
“People may be aware of their own tendency to idealize being single or coupled, but they may not realize that this can impact how they respond to others — and how others respond to them,” the researchers observe in the news release. Given well-documented cultural prejudice against singles, Laurin and her colleagues expected that coupled people would have no trouble rationalizing their status, but they were more surprised to see that this effect was just as strong for single people.
There’s too much prejudice against single people in society, especially the senior who without an attachment
According to the researchers, this study is “the first to show relationship-specific patterns of prejudice whereby both single and coupled people favor others who share their relationship status over those who don’t.” Many seniors have never married or had children. Others have children living in another state who don’t or rarely visit seniors who are not able to visit their children thousands of miles away.
As a next step, the researchers plan to explore whether people idealize other aspects of their lives, such as the decisions they’ve made, the type of community they live in, or the career path they’ve chosen.