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Aging Brings Sense of Calm

Aging brings a sense of peace and calm, a new study finds. The good life starts around age 60.

Researchers often study depression in older people, and "happiness" studies are common. But the new research found aging brings more positive than negative emotions, and also more passive than active emotions. Anger and anxiety are examples of active, negative emotions.

"The passive/positive combination reveals that contentment, calm and ease are some of the most common emotions people feel as they age," explained Catherine Ross of the Population Research Center at The University of Texas. "Emotions that are both active and negative, such as anxiety and anger, are especially unlikely among the elderly."

Ross and John Mirowsky, professors of sociology, say the overall feeling with age is one of greater contentment. Another recent study found seniors are the happiest Americans, while Baby Boomers are miserable by comparison.

The new study, published in the May 19 issue of Social Science and Medicine, was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging. it examined 1,450 responses to the 1996 U.S. General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, which included English-speaking people aged 18 and older. Studies like this frequently look at old data that is comprehensive, analyzing it in new ways.

Participants responded to statements such as: On how many days in the past seven days have you ... felt that you couldn't shake the blues, felt sad, felt lonely, felt anxious and tense, felt worried, felt so restless that you couldn't sit long in a chair, felt angry at someone, felt mad at someone, felt outraged at something somebody had done, felt calm, felt at ease, felt contented, felt happy, felt overjoyed by something, felt excited about or interested in something, felt proud, felt embarrassed, felt ashamed.

Compared to men, women had more negative emotions and more passive emotions. Also, participants with higher income and education levels had significantly more positive emotions than those with lower income and education levels, the researchers found.

Live Science Staff
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