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A number of studies have demonstrated a major upside to getting older: As people age, they tend to become happier and more satisfied with their lives.
New research from Buffalo University and Northwestern University hints at one possible reason behind this improvements in well-being — people more trusting as they age, which in turn carries a number of benefits for their well-being.
“When we think of old age, we often think of decline and loss,” Claudia Haase, a professor of social policy at Northwestern and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “But a growing body of research shows that some things actually get better as we age.”
In the first study, researchers studied the link between age and trust in a sample of nearly 200,000 people from 83 countries at different points in the past 30 years. A second study followed over 1,200 Americans of different ages (Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers) over time,
Both analyses revealed that people become more trusting as they get older. The researchers hypothesized that as we age, we become more prone to see the good in others and forgive their misgivings — which is reflected in the fact that older people are more likely to give back to others.
This increased level of trust in turn led to improvements in well-being and happiness.
“Trust may benefit well-being because a sense of trust in other people allows us to derive support, comfort and pleasure from our social relationships,” Haase said. “People who trust more are also happier… Moreover, our study shows that people who trust more are not only happier today, but they also experience increases in happiness over time.”
The findings were published online in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.