Study results: Older but happier

Emotional health can actually improve with age, according to a recent study at Stanford University in California. People over 50 are simply less susceptible to emotional roller coaster rides than their younger friends.

Psychologists running the Stanford study followed the rise and fall of emotions for 184 adults on a daily basis for a one-week period. They found:
· While the older subjects in the study had just as many positive feelings as younger people, negative emotions grew less common with age.
· Older adults were also more resilient, bouncing back more quickly from "down" periods.

Dr. Laura Carstensen, who conducted the study, says that one reason for this phenomenon could be the simple recognition of the finite nature of life itself. Most people simply change their priorities as they age. In other words, as you approach the end of life, you recognize its fragility and, therefore, its preciousness, she said. Goals change with age, and most of us are likely to "invest" in important relationships and experiences.

Paradox of agin/STRONG>
The researchers used an innovative method to track emotions throughout the day. Participants were given pagers, which prompted them to record their emotional feelings at five specific times each day. Other studies have simply asked people to remember how they felt at a given moment in the past. This would likely produce less accurate results.

These types of results have produced a new phenomenon that experts are now calling the "paradox of aging". In short, older people are just better at dealing with their emotions. Our parents or grandparents just called it "maturity" or "wisdom". But if a new psychological label explains the process, so much the better.

The results of the study were reported in the October issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.