The mystery of the U-shaped relationship between happiness and age

Frijters, Paul and Beatton, Tony (2012) The mystery of the U-shaped relationship between happiness and age. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 82 2-3: 525-542. doi:10.1016/j.jebo.2012.03.008

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Author Frijters, Paul
Beatton, Tony
Title The mystery of the U-shaped relationship between happiness and age
Journal name Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0167-2681
Publication date 2012-05
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.jebo.2012.03.008
Open Access Status
Volume 82
Issue 2-3
Start page 525
End page 542
Total pages 18
Place of publication Amsterdam, Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier
Collection year 2013
Language eng
Abstract In this paper, we address the puzzle of the relationship between age and happiness. Whilst the majority of psychologists have concluded there is not much of a relationship at all, the economic literature has unearthed a possible U-shape relationship with the minimum level of satisfaction occurring in middle age (35-50). In this paper, we look for a U-shape in three panel data sets, the German Socioeconomic Panel (GSOEP), the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and the Household Income Labour Dynamics Australia (HILDA). We find that the raw data mainly supports a wave-like shape that only weakly looks U-shaped for the 20-60 age range. That weak U-shape in middle age becomes more pronounced when allowing for socio-economic variables. When we then take account of selection effects via fixed-effects, however, the dominant age-effect in all three panels is a strong happiness increase around the age of 60 followed by a major decline after 75, with the U-shape in middle age disappearing such that there is almost no change in happiness between the age of 20 and 50.
Keyword Happiness methodology
Latent variable models
Age effects
Selection effects
Fixed effects
Life Satisfaction
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Available online 27 March 2012.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2013 Collection
School of Economics Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 47 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 52 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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