Survey reveals the best years of our life might not be when we expect

In the words of one wise TikTok user, ‘your twenties are not your prime; they’re your primer.’

In your twenties, the world may be your oyster, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t also bearing the weight of it on your shoulders. Society expects you to carve out a career path, start thinking about the future, but it also pressures you to have wild and reckless fun because, after all, these are supposed to be the best years of your life - that’s the true duality of early adulthood.

But before you put too much pressure on your twenties, just know that your best years aren’t slipping away from you; in fact, they may still be yet to come.

When are the best years of our life?

According to a survey published in Social Indicators Research of people who have been where we all are, our twenties aren’t the best years of our lives; it’s actually the ages between 30 and 34.

The survey came to this wondrous conclusion by asking 17,000 people over the age of 50 from 13 different European countries about the periods in their life in which they felt happiest, with each providing a review of the stages in their life.

Happiness is subjective, and each person’s age and life path will undoubtedly have a massive impact on their responses, as well as where each participant is from. For example, those from France reported feeling a similar amount of happiness from the 20s all the way into their 80s.

When accounting for factors such as sex and country, the study showed thatpeak happiness occurs between the ages of 30-34. But, encouragingly, happiness doesn’t necessarily start to wane after this period, with results showing people could be living their best lives for twenty years or more.

Author of the study, Begoña Álvarez, explained: ‘I find that the probability of achieving the happiest period in life evolves systematically with age.’

The probability increases sharply from childhood to the ages of 30–34, when it reaches the maximum. At this point it is important to remark that individuals’ happiest periods are long on average: for half of respondents this period lasts two decades or longer.

What about our worst years?

Whether you’re starting a family, buying a house, making your way up the work ladder or even just enjoying a lavish life surrounded by friends and fun, our 30s are supposed to be our best years. But, what does up must come down.

So, when can we expect to see the worst years of our lives?

It seems that many of us have probably passed the least sunny periods of our lives, with many participants feeling least happy between the ages of 10-14. Of course, changing bodies, surging hormones, and sudden realisations that the opposite sex doesn’t have cooties would have made pre-teen years a confusing and upsetting time for many.

Unfortunately, we can’t expect our pre-teen years to be the be-all and end-all of unhappiness. Various factors in our ever-changing lives may make us miserable at any given time. However, the study also found that many people experience a resurgence of unhappiness after the 70-year mark, which isn’t surprising considering the health issues coupled with the loss of loved ones that we are expected to encounter in later life.

Whether it’s rose-tinted glasses or a life well-lived, it seems like this study solidifies the notion of ‘enjoy it while it lasts.’ And, while you may be feeling the pressures of adulthood in your thirties, know the feeling will age like a fine wine, and you’ll probably look back on it fondly anyway.

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