in 8 EU-countries

Pietrica Okma en Ruut Veenhoven
Published in Dutch in: Sociale Wetenschappen, 1999, vol 42, nr 4, pp 38-62

We live ever longer, but are the extra years of life worthwhile? Some believe that life becomes less satisfying with advancing age, in particular when a natural term of life is surpassed. This paper examines that belief empirically. It inspects whether: 1) happiness declines over the lifetime, 2) dips in old age, and 3) gets negative in very old age.
Two measures of happiness are used: general life-satisfaction and mood-level. Averages are compared across age-categories. The matter is examined in 8 countries, around 1980 and 1990. Data are drawn from the Eurobarometer surveys and the European Value Studies. Samples were pooled, to obtain a sufficient number of very old subjects.
It appears that life-satisfaction differs hardly across age groups. The very old are slightly more satisfied with life than the middle aged. Mood tends to be lower in older age groups, though the decline is small and does not extend to the very old. The decline of mood does not follow a dip pattern. Both satisfaction and mood remain positive in old age. Response bias or selective sampling cannot explain these results. Some substantive reasons are explored.

Full text in Dutch