People are happiest when they are older, says study

Things can only get better! People are happiest when they reach 70 and least content in middle aged as we get better at ignoring anger and recognising when someone is happy

  • Older people are happier because they view social situations more positively
  • A study on emotions found that the older you are the less aware of negativity 
  • Britons were given computer-generated faces showing anger, fear or happiness 
  • The participants were then asked say which emotion they felt was stronger
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Life gets more enjoyable as time goes on, say scientists who found that older people report greater levels of happiness than their younger counterparts.

A study on emotional perception found that, as we get older, we stop noticing when people around us are angry – a feature also found in children.

We also get better at picking up on when someone is happy, making the world a more pleasant place in our experience than it may actually be. 

Middle aged people are the least happy, experts found, reporting higher levels of fear and anger.

The study is one of the largest of its kind to examine how people detect changes in social cues and how our emotions intensify or diminish as we get older. 

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Older people report greater happiness levels leading researchers to believe that life gets more pleasant as time goes on, according to scientists. A study on emotion perception suggests that we stop noticing when people are around us are angry as we get older (stock image)

Researchers from Harvard University quizzed 10,000 British people ranging from 10 to 85 using an online test.

Experts looked at how participants of different ages perceived anger, fear and happiness. 

Participants were shown images of faces, presented in pairs, and were asked ‘Which face is more angry?,’ ‘Which face is more happy?,’ or ‘Which face is more fearful?’

Professor Laura Germine, from Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital, told The Times: ‘We perceive anger and fear less and less, and happiness just as much [as we age]. So, over time, people may just view everything more positively.’  

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The results showed that we have several distinct phases of life.   

During childhood, the ability to perceive emotions rises, with our reaction to anger strongest during adolescence.

Sensitivity to negative emotions like anger become heightened during early to mid-adolescence.

Professor Germine added: ‘Think of being 13 and how awful it is. Thirteen-year-olds can be really mean to each other’.  

How we perceived all three emotions reached a peak at around the age of 30. 

After that, our ability to distinguish fine changes between fear and anger diminish. 

Experts looked at how participants of different ages perceived anger, fear and happiness. During childhood, the ability to perceive emotions rises, with our reaction to anger strongest when we’re teenagers because we are gaining the ability to detect changes in social disapproval

It was found that while our sensitivity to negative emotions decline, our perception of positive emotions do not.

‘It’s well established that there is an age-related decline in the ability to decode emotion cues, in general, but here we see very little decline in the ability to detect differences in happiness,’ said Professor Germine.

She said that it is not clear why this might be. It could be because of declining cognition, or even declining vision. 

Neither explanation fits with what happens to happiness perception, however, which appears to become stronger.

The study says that the results show that humans view social situations more positively as we grow older, because we are better at ignoring angry people. 

‘What’s remarkable is that we see declines in many visual perceptual abilities as we get older, but here we did not see such declines in the perception of happiness,’ Professor Germine said. 

‘These findings fit well with other research showing that older adults tend to have more positive emotions and a positive outlook.’ 

The full findings of the research were published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.


In a recent study, researchers at UC Berkeley found there are 27 distinct human emotions.  

It was originally thought we feel just six emotions.

Researchers asked more than 800 participants to freely report or rank the emotions they felt after watching 30 short video clips.

In addition to happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and, disgust, they also determined confusion, romance, nostalgia, sexual desire, and others to be distinct emotions.

The full list inclues: 



Aesthetic Appreciation










Empathetic pain












Sexual desire



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