Giving to charity makes you happy, middle age is miserable: experts

Fri Sep 4, 2015 12:44pm EDT
 
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By Joseph D'Urso

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Giving to others not only makes us happier but can help lower our blood pressure, while humans are most miserable in their forties for deeply rooted biological reasons, researchers told a conference in London on Thursday.

Experts from Britain and Canada were debating the latest research on happiness and altruism, as part of a conference on "nudging" - using psychological insights into human behavior to get people to make good decisions.

Happiness is highly subjective, and cultures have very different conceptions of what it means, making it difficult to study and measure - but an increasing number of organizations think it is an important subject to focus on.

The United Nations uses a Human Development Index, which incorporates factors like life satisfaction alongside more conventional economic metrics like gross domestic product (GDP), and publishes a World Happiness Report each year.

THE MONKEY PUZZLE

Happiness over an adult lifespan is "a giant U shape," high in our 20s, low in our 40s, and high again in old age," said Andrew Oswald, an economics professor at Britain's University of Warwick.

He published this conclusion several years ago, but has since carried out similar studies around the world, all of which reveal the same conclusion - that happiness follows a U shape, and depression follows a 'hump,' peaking in the 40s.   Continued...

 
A woman packages donated food at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in Los Angeles, April 20, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson