A new study, led by Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, analyzed lifestyle and health patterns in more than 10,000 people in the UK and United States.
The study had many interesting findings. For one, it found that people become happier as the move into older age – despite their deteriorating bodies and any weight gain. Researchers hypothesize that happiness levels follow something of a “U” curve, bottoming out in the mid-40s. After that, for whatever reasons, people tend to get much happier.
It’s unclear why this increase in happiness happens. Maybe older people have better coping mechanisms for dealing with hardship? Maybe older folks they put less pressure on themselves to perform in professional settings? Or maybe, with age, we learn not to sweat the small stuff. Whatever the reason, old populations have much higher happiness levels than their middle-aged counterparts.
The study also looked at exercise – and there was an interesting divide between American men and women. For women, low levels of physical exercise didn’t seem to affect mental well-being. For men, on the other hand, a lack of exercise had a large negative impact on their mental quality of life. But before women discount exercise entirely, it’s worth noting that the physical benefits of exercise – for both sexes – are substantial.
In addition, the study looked at the variable of sleep. Participants that slept, on average, between six and eight hours tended to have better physical and mental health scores than participants who slept less than six or more than eight.
Lastly, researchers found that wealthier US participants reported better mental and physical quality of life. This wasn’t true for UK participants. Researchers speculate that this may be due to universal health care in the UK – which could have a leveling factor.
What’s the takeaway? Look forward to old age, exercise and sleep well.
Were you surprised by any of the findings? Let me know in the comments below.