With so much pressure placed on the idea that your twenties is your "defining decade," it's no wonder a quarter-life crisis feels inevitable. But before you start bracing for an impending breakdown, consider this: New research shows there's actually no such thing. In fact, it's all uphill. Huh?
Up until this point, most social research has plotted out happiness over the course of our lifetimes in a U-shaped curve—a downward spiral through our twenties and thirties, finally hitting bottom at a mid-life crisis before things start to look up. But prior claims that happiness starts tanking in the early twenties isn't necessarily true, according to a new study published in Developmental Psychology. Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada found that happiness starts looking up in the late teens and early 20s. And it stays on that trajectory througout adulthood. (Either way, 30 Isn't the New 20: Your 20s Are the New 20s.)
The researchers measured two groups of participants: High school seniors beginning at age 18 to age 43 and universitiy seniors beginning at age 23 through age 37. In both groups, happiness steadily increased well into the 30s. And the researchers didn't start to see a downturn until age 43---big news for our young adult selves.
Part of the problem with prior data, is that most studies use a cross-sectional method for measuring happiness, meaning they looked at participants of different age cohorts at the same time. But to truely get a grip on how our happiness evolves over a lifetime, this study tracked the same individuals as they got older, measuring how the same people reacted to lifes curveballs like marriage, career changes, divorce, or kids.
Here's to the end of our quarter-life qualms. (Live it up! One woman shares the "Sex Advice I Wish I Knew In My 20s.")