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Unhappiness and age

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  • David G. Blanchflower

Abstract

I examine the relationship between unhappiness and age using data from six well-being data files on nearly ten million respondents across forty European countries and the United States. I use fifteen different individual characterizations of unhappiness including despair; anxiety; loneliness; sadness; strain, depression and bad nerves; phobias and panic; being downhearted; having restless sleep; losing confidence in oneself; not being able to overcome difficulties; being under strain; feeling a failure; feeling left out; feeling tense; and thinking of yourself as a worthless person. I also analyze responses to two more general attitudinal measures regarding the situation in the respondent's country as well as on the future of the world. Responses to all these unhappiness questions show a, ceteris paribus, inverted U-shape in age, with controls and many also do so without them. The resiliency of communities left behind by globalization was diminished by the Great Recession which made it especially hard for the vulnerable undergoing a midlife crisis with few resources, to withstand the shock. Unhappiness is hill-shaped in age. There is an unhappiness curve.

Suggested Citation

  • David G. Blanchflower, 2020. "Unhappiness and age," NBER Working Papers 26642, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26642
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    1. Blyth, Mark, 2015. "Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199389445.
    2. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2019. "Unhappiness and Pain in Modern America: A Review Essay, and Further Evidence, on Carol Graham's Happiness for All?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 57(2), pages 385-402, June.
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    14. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2016. "Antidepressants and age: A new form of evidence for U-shaped well-being through life," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 46-58.
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    18. David G. Blanchflower, 2020. "Is Happiness U-shaped Everywhere? Age and Subjective Well-being in 132 Countries," NBER Working Papers 26641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Alan B. Krueger, 2017. "Where Have All the Workers Gone? An Inquiry into the Decline of the U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 48(2 (Fall)), pages 1-87.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrew E. Clark & Hippolyte d'Albis & Angela Greulich, 2020. "The Age U-shape in Europe: The Protective Role of Partnership," Working Papers halshs-02872212, HAL.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • P51 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems

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