Older Peoples More Happier During Pandemic

Day 353: Stay Safe Minnesota

According recent studies, despite of more risks from COVID-19 to older peoples, they were surprisingly more happier than than the younger adults.

In The Wall Street Journal, Psychologist Alison Gopnik writes that according to some research New research despite of the COVID-19 risks, older people were still happier. This could be due to the fact that older people may get better at avoiding stressful situations—like the tense work meeting or family squabble, or aging may makes older people to tolerate stress, even when we can’t avoid it.

“As we get older we get slower, creakier and stiffer—and a lot happier. This might seem surprising, but it’s one of the most robust results in psychology, and it’s true regardless of income, class or culture. In our 70s and 80s, we are happier than when we were strong and beautiful 20-year-olds.”

According to a new study by Laura Carstensen and colleagues at Stanford University, older people are happier even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their research suggested that older people aren’t happier just because they’re better at avoiding stress— but surprisingly, they also reported experiencing more positive emotions and fewer negative ones than younger people did. “Even when the researchers controlled for other factors like income and personality, older people were still happier. In particular, they were more calm, quiet and appreciative, and less concerned and anxious.”

When there is less time ahead of us, we focus more on the positive parts of the time we have left. As we sometimes sigh when we dodge a conflict, “life is too short”—and it gets shorter as we get older.

Prof. Laura Carstensen (source: The Wall Street Journal)

Age Advantage in COVID Pandemic

The principal author of the study published in Psychological Science, Prof. Carstensen told the New York Times “This was, from the beginning, a threat to older people that they simply could not avoid — and, crucially, it was prolonged stress.” Nevertheless, the older people were able to manage their emotions by choosing to avoid stressful situations, which was not the case with younger adults.

Younger people were doing far worse emotionally than older people were. This was April, the most anxiety-producing month, it was novel, cases went from nothing to 60,000, there was lots of attention and fear surrounding all this — and yet we see the same pattern as in other studies, with older people reporting less distress.

Prof. Carstensen (Source: The New York Times)

Psychologists at the University of British Columbia, similarly conducted an exhaustively surveyed both adults and older people during the pandemic and found similar to Standford study.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an outbreak of ageism, in which public discourse has portrayed older adults as a homogeneous, vulnerable group. Our investigation of the daily life amid the outbreak suggests the opposite: Older age was associated with less concern about the threat of Covid-19, better emotional well-being, and more daily positive events,” the authors from British Columbia concluded.

The Pandemic Harder on Young Adults

In The Guardian, Amelia Hill writes that according to long running Prince’s Trust happiness and confidence survey, one in four UK young people were ‘unable to cope’ in the COVID-19 pandemic. Jonathan Townsend, the trust’s UK chief executive, told the paper:

“The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Many believe they are missing out on being young, and sadly we know that the impact of the pandemic on their employment prospects and overall wellbeing could continue far into their futures.”

Likewise, Sophie McMullen writes in the Grater Good Magazine of Berkley University, California that some research revealed that “young people are more stressed, anxious, and depressed than other age groups during COVID-19”.

[T]he COVID-19 outbreak represents an extraordinarily stressful experience for youths, including how necessary public health measures may also threaten personal and collective meaning-making, and disrupt family dynamics and youths’ usual social environment.

Cécile Rousseau and Diana Miconi of McGill University

Emotional Change with Age

Citing Stanford psychologist Laura L. Carstensen’ssocioemotional selectivity theory‘, McMullen writes Greater Good that the young people tend to focus on knowledge-seeking goals and relationship behaviors because of the way they perceive time which are emotionally taxing. On the other hand, the older adults people tend to perceive their time as limited and therefore focus on emotion-related goals, such as savoring positive moments and engaging in activities that make them feel good, with a focus on more immediate payoffs.

“The conditions of life under this pandemic make it harder for young people to capitalize on social connections, and act according to our instinct of exploring a vast array of social opportunities. We miss out on letting loose with friends at a concert, experiencing the dating scene and seeking a lifelong mate, and attending networking events to help advance our careers,” writes McMullen.

COVID-19 Vaccination Watch

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID vaccination tracker page (as of Mar 15, 9 a.m.) 135,847,835 doses have been distributed and 109,081,860 doses administered. According MDH COVID-19 Response vaccine data (as of Mar 13) a total of 1,947,885 doses of Covid-19 (Pfizer & Moderna) vaccines have been administered in Minnesota. According to the MDH latest tally (as of Mar 15) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 498,218 (out of 7,773,967 tested) with 6,747 deaths.