This shows a woman in a field with balloons.
The findings show that the life satisfaction decreased between the ages of 9 and 16, then increased slightly until the age of 70, and then decreased once again until the age of 96. Credit: Neuroscience News

Journey of Joy: Tracing Emotional Highs and Lows Over a Lifetime

Summary: Subjective well-being varies significantly across different stages of life, reveals a comprehensive study examining 460,902 participants. Life satisfaction dips during teenage years, peaks in the 70s, and drops off again by age 96.

While positive feelings generally decrease from childhood to late adulthood, negative emotions see fluctuations, with a noticeable rise after age 60. These insights emphasize the necessity to nurture emotional well-being across different life phases.

Key Facts:

  1. Life satisfaction dips during adolescence (ages 9-16), rebounds, and peaks around age 70 before declining towards age 96.
  2. Positive emotions tend to drop consistently from childhood through late adulthood.
  3. The research underscores the importance of cultivating well-being across various life stages, with findings crucial for designing interventions, especially for older adults.

Source: RUB

In their study, the researchers examined trends in subjective well-being over the lifespan based on 443 samples from longitudinal studies with a total of 460,902 participants.

“We focused on changes in three central components of subjective well-being,” explains Professor Susanne Bücker, who initially worked on the study in Bochum and has since moved to Cologne: “Life satisfaction, positive emotional states and negative emotional states.”

The findings show that the life satisfaction decreased between the ages of 9 and 16, then increased slightly until the age of 70, and then decreased once again until the age of 96. Positive emotional states showed a general decline from age 9 to age 94, while negative emotional states fluctuated slightly between ages 9 and 22, then declined until age 60 and then increased once again. The authors identified greater median changes in positive and negative emotional states than in life satisfaction.

Positive trend over a wide period of life

“Overall, the study indicated a positive trend over a wide period of life, if we look at life satisfaction and negative emotional states,” as Susanne Bücker sums up the results.

The researchers attribute the slight decline in life satisfaction between the ages of 9 and 16 to, for example, changes to the body and to the social life that take place during puberty. Satisfaction rises again from young adulthood onwards. Positive feelings tend to decrease from childhood to late adulthood. In very late adulthood, all components of subjective well-being tended to worsen rather than improve.

“This could be related to the fact that in very old people, physical performance decreases, health often deteriorates, and social contacts diminish; not least because their peers pass away,” speculates the researcher.

The study highlights the need to consider and promote subjective well-being with its various components across the lifespan, as the authors of the study conclude. Their findings could provide significant guidance for the development of intervention programmes, especially those aimed at maintaining or improving subjective well-being late in life.

About this aging and happiness research news

Author: Meike Driessen
Source: RUB
Contact: Meike Driessen – RUB
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Closed access.
The development of subjective well-being across the lifespan: A meta-analytic review of longitudinal studies” by Susanne Bücker et al. Psychological Bulletin


The development of subjective well-being across the lifespan: A meta-analytic review of longitudinal studies

How does subjective well-being (SWB) develop across the life span? Theories and previous empirical research suggest heterogeneous conclusions regarding this question.

Therefore, in this meta-analysis, we synthesized the available longitudinal data on mean-level change in three SWB components: life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect. The analyses were based on 443 unique samples with a total of 460,902 participants.

Our results showed that life satisfaction decreased from age 9 to 16 (d = −0.56), increased slightly until age 70 (d = 0.16), and then decreased again until age 96 (i.e., the oldest age for which data on life satisfaction were available; d = −0.24). Positive affect declined from age 9 for almost the entire time until age 94 (d = −1.71). Negative affect showed small ups and downs between ages 9 and 22. After age 22, negative affect declined until age 60 (d = −0.92), after which it increased again until age 87 (d = 0.58).

Average changes in positive and negative affect were stronger than in life satisfaction. The moderator analyses suggested that the pattern of mean-level changes held across gender, country, ethnicity, sample type, the measure of SWB, time frame of SWB measure, and birth cohort.

In sum, we found a favorable developmental trajectory of SWB over large parts of life for life satisfaction and negative affect and decreases from childhood until late adulthood for positive affect. In late adulthood, SWB tended to worsen rather than improve.

Consequently, interventions aimed at maintaining or enhancing SWB in older adults might be useful.

Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive our recent neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email once a day, totally free.
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. You can cancel your subscription any time.
  1. Lots more food for thought.the studies are obtained by 500,000 sane or insane answers and experts read the curve to give expert results. What are the joys to positive living honesty, openness and willingness with loved ones. Secrets kill relationships and Jesus saves them. Women stand up to oppression personally I finally did to husband’s who lie, kept secret lifestyle and third one now hides refusing to be accountable or responsible. I will not be used or abused again. Joy is finding the Trinity

  2. I’ll be 69 next month, and feel more gratitude, joy and overall satisfaction than ever before. Awful things happened but I got through them. Knowing I am not alone, no matter what, gives me peace. Thanks!

  3. Rubbish!!
    Utter rubbish.
    Life satisfaction tends to vary according to the environment.
    It tends to be lower when life becomes difficult and that can be any time for birth to death.
    However when we are young, we tend to be optimists and tend to expect life to get better. We tend to think we CAN do something about it. go to a different school give up the Uni course we are failing at, leave home to get away from he parents, get a different job, divorce the bastard and get a new husband, get a better job, go on a cruise, etc, etc.
    At 80+ it is all down hill :-( And it ACHES day in and day out!

  4. Neurotic parents raise conflicted kids, steeped in angst, dubiety, grievance & depression. But if, like this nonagenarian, they’ve completed a 56-year analysis & retired w/sufficient income, they must then confront Messor Gravis solo. By my age 92 few boast living friends or colleagues; our kids have grown distant or expired & the grandkids are getting grey & porky. My socio-economic reforms, first imagined in 1941, are still a century or more distant & regarded as risible. Syntelligence, neuro-informatics, CRISPR, miraterials & quant, however, promise a regreened planet of justice & seamless efficiency circa 2123 CE. Colonia Martialis awaits likewise & then the galaxy wherein to meet our fellow machinoids. Multo graviora tulisti.

Comments are closed.