It is indeed true that happiness is a subjective term and can vary significantly depending upon our life’s experiences. On a general note, it can be convincingly stated that young people are extremely cheerful as they have a passion towards life and the curiosity, desire and of course, hope of living every moment that life has to offer.
On the other hand, the older we grow, it is believed that life begins to take a new shape, priorities change amazingly and the dreading issues of midlife crisis followed by the old age tends to lower happiness levels. In fact, old age brings signs of stiff joints, a weak body, low vitality and loss of mental sharpness, which indeed scares young people. However, these are mere assumptions that we have forced upon ourselves.
Several studies, like the Gallup Survey, have proved quite contrary results when it comes to happiness. Most of the studies have reported that older people, even though they have to deal with lots of physical pain, have been rated to be happier than younger ones, who’re increasingly sandwiched in the immense competition and the pressure to prove themselves. The Gallup Survey states that people are generally happiest during their adult years and early 70s. Moreover, according to this study, women experienced more stress and worries at all ages than men. Also, having young children, and being single and unemployed also affected the happiness levels of individuals and families. It has been argued that the reason behind the happiness and contentment of older people is that they think less about the negative emotions and are better adapted to accept the present.
The Quest to Measure the Unmeasurable: Happiness
Several economists all across the world have tried to really understand happiness, going beyond the conventional measures of a well-lived life; i.e., usually, great financial success. The emphasis of these economists has been on measuring indicators of a contended life. So, the general economic indicators like the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Product (GNP) were overlooked for sometime and economists began finding a better way to measure the degree of well-being of a country and its citizens.
One of the first countries to experiment with a new well-being indicator has been Bhutan. In Bhutan, the government had taken the initiative to measure Gross National Happiness (GNH) since 2005 and this method has been appreciated by the world community. Nobel award-winning economists, Amartya Sen and Joseph E. Stiglitz have also published several reports that have called for better assessment tools of measuring a nation’s well-being rather than just the GDP.
Indeed, we can’t say that money and happiness aren’t related. It would be absurd to do that. In the western and European economies that have experienced the pinnacle of free-market economies, there has been a general dissatisfaction that such form of capitalism has got everything wrong. There are high government debts, increasing unemployment and intense competition to find a way out for daily living. But when we talk about the economies in African countries that still need financial success to come up to the level of developing countries, we certainly have to relate their happiness to decent financial success. So as we can observe, when measuring happiness, be it by age or economic conditions, we need to be unbiased and open in our interpretations. Cultural factors have also been associated to the happiness quotient. In societies where the individuals are closely bound together, levels of stress and unhappiness have been low.
As we can see, happiness and well-being are indeed related and we can’t compromise on the happiness part, which truly reflects our financial and social success. To just quote as an example, in the quest to achieve phenomenal growth and development, we have robbed our environment to the point of serious concern. That, eventually, has led to hosts of diseases, discomfort and excessive burden on our earth, resulting in natural disasters at a rapid pace. So, even if we have high disaster management programs and action forces to deal with everything, our fundamentals have gone wrong. Hence, it is true that without a holistic definition of happiness, which must include well-being as its top priority, we can’t say that any country is happy just because of financial supremacy. Same is the case with age. Older or younger, the degree of happiness depends much on the well-being we experience in different stages of our lives.