3D Emoji with Smiley FacesCognitive impairment and happiness are not mutually exclusive.

As Americans age, their happiness and life satisfaction tend to follow a U-shaped pattern, research shows. On average, people in the United States are happiest and most satisfied with their lives when they’re young, experience a decline in both metrics in their 40s (often called a midlife crisis), and then rebound in their 60s.

But what happens after age 65? Do spirits stay high in later life? How is happiness affected by events that happen as people age—like the onset of disabling health conditions or chronic pain, or the deaths of partners and friends?

Findings are mixed and researchers disagree; it depends on how, when, and to whom you ask these questions. “It’s a very heated area of study,” says Anthony Bardo of the University of Kentucky.

Paola Scommegna (April 2023). Happily Ever After? Research Offers Clues on What Shapes Happiness and Life Satisfaction after Age 65. Population Reference Bureau.