A happy retirement and the U-curve of happiness

Having the aspirations to live and enjoy a happy retirement is the goal that most of us aim for and share. The period in life where you are free of the day job, hopefully mortgage free and you can finally sink your teeth into all those hobbies and travel that you have kept putting off while relaxing at home. Academics have found increasing evidence that happiness through adulthood is U-shaped – life satisfaction fluctuates throughout our lives with some of the highest levels seen in childhood and in later life, making a ‘u-shape’, known as the u-curve of happiness.

What is the U-curve of happiness?

The ‘U-curve of happiness’ theory has been in discussion for numerous years and gained proven academic grounding in the 1990s during the extended research int happiness economics, when the relationship between work and happiness was studied.

From these studies, international surveys about life satisfaction were conducted. Evidence obtained revealed that happiness through adulthood is in fact u-shaped and is even more visible in wealthier countries where life expectancy is longer and people live in better health.

“Life satisfaction falls in our 20s & 30s, then hits a trough in our late 40s before increasing until our 80s.”
Jonathan Rauch, author, journalist and activist.

Life’s sweet spot

Psychologists believe that children and older people live in a “neurological and psychological sweet spot” as they are the most able to enjoy life in the moment. Due to this reason, life satisfaction begins to fall during our 20s and 30s, takes a further dive in our late 40s, before it starts to climb again and continues to do so as we reach later life.  

While people may not necessarily class themselves or relate to being unhappy, life satisfaction still dips for a number of reasons such as an increasing responsibility for others, and a growing unease about achievement.

How to retire happy

The main difference between living a happy life and a happy retirement is primarily financial. A varied diet, getting enough sleep, exercising and having a strong network of friends and family are some of the key elements to happiness throughout our lives.

Retirement is a transition and a journey, something that happens over time and is a shared life goal amongst us all. The average age of retirement in the UK currently stands at 63, although many individuals show a drive to achieve this much sooner by adhering to a savings and investments plan to put away as much as possible to retire early.

But like most aspects of life, both in the home and at work, moderation and preparation are integral. A happy retirement will be the result of living well in the years prior and putting in the groundwork to be financially secure later.