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Middle-aged people 'least happy', major report shows

Published 02/02/2016

The ONS found many people aged 40-59 were struggling with both childcare and looking after elderly parents
The ONS found many people aged 40-59 were struggling with both childcare and looking after elderly parents

Middle-aged people are the least happy, with many struggling with the "double responsibility" of caring for children and elderly parents, according to a major report.

Even pensioners aged over 90 report better life satisfaction and happiness than those aged 40 to 59, the study from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.

Experts analysed personal wellbeing data for more than 300,000 adults in the UK, collected over three years from 2012 to 2015.

They found that people aged 65 to 79 tended to report the highest average levels of personal wellbeing, while those aged 40 to 59 were struggling .

The ONS looked at measures of wellbeing, including life satisfaction, feeling whether what you do is worthwhile, happiness and anxiety.

It said generally people in the UK are reasonably content with their lives overall.

It found that people aged 70 to 74 had the highest level of life satisfaction, followed closely by those aged 65 to 69 and teenagers aged 16 to 19.

People aged 75 to 79 also reported high levels of satisfaction with life, although this declined as they got older.

Meanwhile, those aged 50 to 54 had the lowest levels of life satisfaction, while those aged 40 to 59 were generally the least satisfied among the age groups.

Happiness followed a similar pattern, with people aged 65 to 74 the happiest and teenagers aged 16 to 19 also reporting good levels of happiness.

Those aged 50 to 54 were the least happy while those aged 40 to 59 generally reported low levels of happiness.

Over the age of 75, happiness levels declined, although even those aged over 90 were still happier than people in middle-age.

When it came to feelings of what you do being worthwhile, older people over 85 had the lowest scores while those aged 60 to 75 had the highest - and significantly higher than those in middle-age.

People aged 40 to 59 were also considerably more anxious than other groups (with those aged 50 to 54 the most anxious group), while those over 90 were the least anxious.

ONS director of measuring national wellbeing Glenn Everett said the data showed that, overall, w ellbeing falls after people reach the age of 75.

He added: "The low wellbeing in middle-age might also suggest that those in this age group are struggling with the double responsibility of caring for children and for elderly parents."

The report said people in their younger years and those who are retired may have more free time to spend on activities which promote their wellbeing.

"In contrast, those in their middle years may have more demands placed on their time and might struggle to balance work and family commitments. Evidence shows that people are having children later.

"Therefore another possible reason for lower scores for the middle-age groups could result from the burden caused by having to care for both parents and children at the same time."

The study also said the fall in ratings of personal wellbeing amongst the very oldest age groups "might result from a range of personal circumstances such as poor health, living alone and feelings of loneliness".

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