World Happiness Report 2024

Happiness and Age: Summary

World Happiness Report 2024

Authors: Lord Prof. Richard Layard Prof. John Helliwell Prof. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve

John F. Helliwell, Richard Layard, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Lara B. Aknin and Shun Wang

In this issue of the World Happiness Report we focus on the happiness of people at different stages of life. In the seven ages of man in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, the later stages of life are portrayed as deeply depressing. But happiness research shows a more nuanced picture, and one that is changing over time.

In the West, the received wisdom was that the young are the happiest and that happiness thereafter declines until middle age, followed by substantial recovery. But since 2006-10, as we shall see, happiness among the young (aged 15-24) has fallen sharply in North America – to a point where the young are less happy than the old. Youth happiness has also fallen (but less sharply) in Western Europe.

By contrast, happiness at every age has risen sharply in Central and Eastern Europe, so that young people are now equally happy in both parts of Europe. In the former Soviet Union and East Asia too there have been large increases in happiness at every age, while in South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa happiness has fallen at every age.

The World Happiness Report is a partnership of Gallup, the Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the WHR’s Editorial Board. The report is produced under the editorial control of the WHR Editorial Board.

From 2024, the World Happiness Report is a publication of the Wellbeing Research Centre at the University of Oxford, UK.