The cover story in the year-end edition of The Economist was entitled: "The U-Bend of Life: why, beyond middle age, people get happier as they get older." Personally, I was more captivated by the abbreviated title: "Why Life Begins at 46." Ever hopeful, I snatched up a copy!
Very simply, the thesis is that the bottom of the "U" is the well-known phenomenon of the midlife crisis and that, after working through their acceptance that dreams will likely not be fulfilled, people become happier. Ironically, the explanations for this phenomenon range from the downright depressing ("unhappy people die early") to the somewhat less depressing ("because the old know they are closer to death…they grow better at living for the present"). As noted by the author, such studies of happiness have given rise to such policy initiatives as Bhutan‘s Gross National Happiness ("GNH") assessment.
The U-Bend Thesis is an enticing prospect for those of us in their mid-forties who have heretofore preferred denial to getting older. And, in closing, it seems fitting to repeat a famous quote attributed to Maurice Chevalier that appears in the article: "Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative."
Have a great weekend.
David M. Smith – Click here for more information on David Smith.