Column: It’s all downhill after age 30. Or is it?


You’ll have to excuse the gloomy face of late. But at least most of the readers here can likely relate. 

It’s been a fun ride up to this point, the pinnacle of life. No complaints from childhood. The teenage years, filled with typical amounts of awkwardness, were generally pleasant. The college years, a euphoric blur, transitioned smoothly into the dizzying unknown of my 20s.

I can remember as a college student in 2005 reading David Rattiner’s column in Dan’s Papers titled “Twentysomething,” which ran until 2012. At the time, the end of my 20s seemed like an eternity away. The idea of a lifetime spent as a twentysomething seemed plausible.

Yet, here I am.

My 20s are ancient history, which I recently learned is more damning than previously imagined.

A study published last week examined happiness in more than 50,000 adults. Take a guess where the decline begins? You got it: age 30.

I’m 31 now and just beginning the slippery slope toward a melancholy future of waving my fists at teenagers who skateboard too close to my lawn. The hair on the back of my neck is already starting to stand up at the mere mention of a helicopter.

The findings of that study, titled “More Happiness for Young People and Less for Mature Adults,” were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. It found that adults 30 and older typically used to be happier than younger adults and teens. That trend is now reversing and we’re growing up to be a grouchy bunch.

“Age is supposed to bring happiness and contentment,” said Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State University and the study’s lead author, according to an Associated Press report. “For that not to be true anymore is somewhat shocking.”

When I turned 30, I argued with my fiancée that I was technically still in my 20s. It wasn’t until I turned 31 that I would fully enter my 30s, I reasoned. It was terribly weak logic, and she was quick to point that out and reaffirm that yes, my 20s were over regardless of how I tried to spin it.

But now I know my resistance toward entering my 30s came with reason. Thirty-eight percent of adults 30 and over were “very happy” in the early 1970s, according to the study. The figure is now 33 percent.

The study asked people to respond to the question, “Taking all things together, how would you say things are these days — would you say you’re very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy these days?”

The study went on to speculate some possible reasons for the shift. A change in American culture may have benefitted younger adults more, it says. Social media and technology may be enhancing younger people’s lives while detracting from the lives of older adults. And unrealistic expectations about jobs, relationships and material goods may be catching up to us millennials as we cross into our 30s.

The central question, though, of just how happy one is got me thinking. How would I answer?

To be honest, even at age 31 I’d have to say I’m “very happy.”

Since turning 30, I got engaged during a vacation to Cancun. My fiancée and I closed on our first home in September and we have an adorable Australian shepherd/Golden retriever mix named Melo cheerfully waiting for us when we get home.

Of course, the stresses that come with all these life-altering moments carry the risk of future unhappiness. Owning a home sounds great until even the seemingly mundane task of installing a corner shelf leaves you wanting to slam a hammer through the wall. And I’d dare not ask my sister her happiness level these days when her 2-year-old son springs out of bed ready to start the day at 4:30 a.m.

Apparently there’s no snooze button for children.

My fiancée would likely point out much of my happiness is currently tied to the success or failures of the sports teams I root for. And hey, the Mets just won the pennant! The Mets!

Of course, it would be too much to ask for them to win the World Series. After losing to the Kansas City Royals, I tallied how many seasons have gone by combined for all my teams without a championship. The answer was 114 and counting.

Whether I’m 10, 20 or 30, some things don’t change.

Joe_Werkmeister_2012.jpgJoe Werkmeister is the managing editor of the Riverhead News-Review and The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at [email protected] or 631-354-8049.