Recent research suggests that older Americans may be happier than younger ones, that the stereotype of youth as the best time of life is just that, a stereotype.

While the elderly did report more health problems, they “tended to report far fewer difficulties overall–fewer financial, interpersonal and crime problems…younger adults were far more likely to have financial worries, troubled emotional relationships and professional stressors.”

Risk of depression for the elderly seemed to correlate more closely with passivity than with age. The more active and socially involved the adults were, be it reading, group walking, bridge or yoga, the happier they were.

Those in the study had not always been happy: according to research published by a Dr. Yang in the American Sociological Review, it truly was being older that conferred contentment. One theory of the greater serenity of the elderly is simply that as the end of life nears, they have learned to take things in stride, to relax, accept, and live in the moment.

If taking things in stride is the true secret of contentment, then the good news is that peace of mind is within reach of all of us.

Source: “Older Americans May be Happier Than Younger Ones” (Washington Post; July 14, 2008), Tom W. Smith, University of Chicago, Director of the General Social Survey, Catherine Ross, sociologist at University of Texas and co-author with John Mirowsky of study published in Journal of Social Science & Medicine.