"Aging isn't going to turn someone grumpy into someone who's happy-go-lucky," lead author Laura Carstensen of Stanford University's Center on Longevity says in a statement. "But most people will gradually feel better as they grow older."
Carstensen, post-doctoral fellows Bulent Turan and Susanne Scheibe as well as Stanford doctoral students and researchers at Pennsylvania State, Northwestern, the University of Virginia and the University of California's campuses in San Francisco and Los Angeles, tracked about 180 Americans ages 18-94 from 1993 to 2005 -- adding participants as others died.
The researchers sought to find out if seniors who say they're happy were part of a socioeconomic era predisposed to look at the bright side or are most people -- whether born and reared in boom times or busts -- happier as they age, the researchers say.
"Our findings suggest that it doesn't matter when you were born," Carstensen says. "In general, people get happier as they get older. As people age, they're more emotionally balanced and better able to solve highly emotional problems. They care more and are more compassionate about problems, and that may lead to a more stable world."
The findings are published online in the journal Psychology and Aging.