Does happiness favor those of a particular age, sex, or race? Does wealth enhance well-being? Does happiness come with having certain traits? Close friends? A marriage partner? An active faith?

These questions not only went unanswered during psychology’s first century, they went largely unasked. Traditionally psychology has focused on negative emotions, such as depression and anxiety, and ignored such positive emotions as happiness and satisfaction. That is now changing. A new cadre of researchers is offering a fresh perspective on an old puzzle: Who is happy—and why? Psychologists and sociologists have now exploded some myths about what makes for happiness, and the findings are remarkably consistent with Christian wisdom and what the Bible teaches.

Myths Of Happiness

Is happiness being young? middle-aged? retired? Many believe there are unhappy times of life—the stress-filled teen years, or the midlife-crisis years, or the declining years of old age. But interviews with several hundred thousand people of all ages reveal that no time of life is notably happier or unhappier. The ingredients of happiness change with age. And the emotional terrain varies with age (teens, unlike adults, usually come up from gloom or down from elation within an hour’s time). Yet tell me how old someone is and you have given me no clue to the person’s sense of well-being.

Nor do we find in rates of depression, suicide, or divorce any evidence of increased personal upheaval during the supposed early forties “midlife crisis” years. Many of us do face crisis times, but not at any predictable age. The “empty nest syndrome”—a sense of despondency and lost meaning when children leave the home—also ...

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