With Age, World Becomes “Mostly Good”

By Alex Dixon | July 16, 2008 | 0 comments

A positive outlook on life isn't generally associated with old age—on the contrary, the stereotypical "grumpy old man" may come to mind. But a new study suggests that as we get older, we increasingly think of the world as generally good, and those of us who do are happier.

The study, published earlier this year in the journal Psychology and Aging, examined roughly 2,000 people over a two-year period. Researchers Michael Poulin at the University of Michigan and Roxane Silver at UC Irvine gave participants several surveys that asked them about their well-being, how religious they were, and whether they thought the world and human nature were basically good.

Researchers compared the data with the participants' age and found a correlation: The older the person, the more good they saw around them, and the better they felt emotionally. The results suggest that older adults–particularly those 50 years old and up–who see the world as "mostly good" are also likely to experience a general sense of well-being.

Not so for younger adults. For them, a positive outlook and well-being appear unrelated.

"In sum, our research implies that a positive view of the world may not be crucial for the young," the researchers write. "But seeing the world as more good than bad and people as more trustworthy than not is a source of well-being for older adults."

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About The Author

Alex Dixon is a Greater Good editorial assistant.


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