When in Life Are People Happy?

Happiness with life in general is one thing and day-to-day fun quite another, to judge from some polling on the matter.

Asking last month about “life in general,” a BIGresearch poll found respondents more happy than not. Overall, 56 percent classified themselves as “totally happy/happy,” while 22 percent were “neutral” and another 22 percent “totally unhappy/unhappy.” But the “totally happy/happy” vote was far higher for the 55-and-older cohort (69 percent) than for the 18-34s (47 percent) or 35-54s (53 percent).

In contrast, tracking polls in 2009 by Gallup (averaged out in a report issued this month) found young adults more likely than their elders to answer affirmatively when asked if they “experienced happiness, enjoyment and smiling or laughter during a lot of the day” prior to being queried.

While 79 percent of Gallup’s 18-20s said they experienced those nice things on the previous day, the number declined steadily for respondents in the next four decades of their lives, reaching a low of 70 percent for the 51-55-year-old and 56-60 cohorts before bouncing back up to 76 percent among the 71-75-year-olds. Apparently midlife feels less joyful on a day-to-day basis than what either precedes it or follows it.