AGING
March 26, 2015

One of The Perks of Being Older

There are some, and one at least can make you happier.

Getting older isn't all bad news; in fact, it has some definite advantages. One is the way you look at other people. As you age, you become more and more inclined to trust your fellow human beings. And far from being a problem, this seems to be good for the soul, increasing happiness and well-being.

A pair of recent studies suggests that this trend has been going on for at least the last 30 years and that it’s a worldwide phenomenon.

“When we think of old age, we often think of decline and loss,” said Claudia Haase, one of the researchers in a statement. “Our new findings show that trust increases as people get older and, moreover, that people who trust more are also more likely to experience increases in happiness over time.”

This connection between trust and well-being was consistent across the entire life span.

The first study looked at nearly 200,000 people, ages 14 to 99, from 83 different countries over the course of 25 years. It found that older people had a higher degree of interpersonal trust and that higher trust predicted greater well being, especially as people got older.

The fact that these trends were seen for 25 years suggests that being more trusting isn't simply a consequence of living in boom times. Good times or bad, older people showed more trust and experienced greater well-being.

The second study measured how the attitudes of 1,230 people in the United States changed over a four-year period and found that they became more trusting as they aged. This held true no matter what a person's age was. People in the study ranged from 18 to 89.

“For Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers alike, levels of trust increase as people get older,” said Haase, an assistant professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern's School of Education and Social Policy. “People really seem to be ‘growing to trust’ as they travel through their adult years.”

“We know that older people are more likely to look at the bright side of things,” Haase added. “As we age, we may be more likely to see the best in other people,” she said, and likelier to overlook the disagreements and little letdowns that bothered us when we were younger.

Tales of scams that take advantage of too-trusting seniors do not tell the whole story. At least according to these two studies, trust is not a liability in old age. Far from it.

The studies appear in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

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