As Americans grow older, they tend to become more emotionally stable—translating into longer, more productive lives, according to a new Stanford study published online in the journal Psychology and Aging.
“As people age, they're more emotionally balanced and better able to solve highly emotional problems,” researchers said. “We may be seeing a larger group of people who can get along with a greater number of people. They care more and are more compassionate about problems, and that may lead to a more stable world.”
Between 1993 and 2005, researchers tracked about 180 Americans between the ages of 18 and 94. Over the years, some participants died and others aged out of the younger groups, so additional participants were included.
For one week every five years, the study participants carried pagers and were required to immediately respond to a series of questions whenever the devices buzzed. The periodic quizzes were intended to chart how happy, satisfied, and comfortable they were at any given time.
“As people get older, they're more aware of mortality,” researchers said of the findings. “So when they see or experience moments of wonderful things, that often comes with the realization that life is fragile and will come to an end. But that's a good thing. It's a signal of strong emotional health and balance.”
Over the years, the older subjects reported having fewer negative emotions and more positive ones compared with their younger days. But even with the good outweighing the bad, older people were inclined to report a mix of positive and negative emotions more often than younger test subjects.