Hope I Die before I Get Old: Mispredicting Happiness Across the Adult Lifespan

Abstract

The tendency to overestimate the influence of circumstances on well-being has been demonstrated for a range of life events, but the perceived impact of aging on well-being has been largely overlooked. People seem to dread growing old, despite evidence that well-being improves with age. We compared the self-reported happiness of younger adults (mean age = 31) and older adults (mean age = 68) with their estimates of happiness at different ages. Self-reports confirmed increasing happiness with age, yet both younger and older participants believed that happiness declines. Both groups estimated declining happiness for the average person, but only older adults estimated this decline for themselves.

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Correspondence to Heather P. Lacey.

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Lacey, H.P., Smith, D.M. & Ubel, P.A. Hope I Die before I Get Old: Mispredicting Happiness Across the Adult Lifespan. J Happiness Stud 7, 167–182 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-005-2748-7

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Keywords

  • aging
  • well-being
  • affective forecasting