The Happiest Year of Life Happens in Your 30s—Here’s Why

Photo: Getty Images / jacobia dahm
For decades, the narrative has been that your younger years are your happiest. That there's nothing like the joy of being a kid. Or that your early 20s are your peak. As a 24-year-old, I can say that plenty of people my age are just sad and confused, so if this the happiest time of our lives, I want my money back. Fortunately, a new poll proves that being young is not the secret to happiness. A survey of 2,000 people found that the happiest year of life is the 36th.

To find the average response, researchers asked participants at which age they would most like to stop time. The survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of healthspan-focused brand Tru Niagen, also found that one in four Americans have no desire to go back to their 20s.

Honestly, this makes a lot sense. Your 30s are the time in your life when you've actually gained your footing. You're likely the most financially secure you've ever been. And you may be experiencing milestones like buying your first house, which happens, on average, around age 34 in the United States. Looking at it astrologically, you experience your first Saturn return in your late 20s, which signals the true end of adolescence and can be a chaotic time filled with growing pains. Once you're in your 30s, you can enjoy all of the personal growth that happened in your 20s.

Basking in the joy of the mid-30s also signals a societal shift to embrace the aging process. The survey found that 59 percent of respondents said they used to dedicate far too much time to anti-aging and that 56 percent said it was exhausting. Now, 63 percent are shifting their focus from looking younger to feeling younger by increasing their healthspan.

Healthspan is the number of healthy years you live. You might live to see the age of 90, but only get 80 years of good health. Researchers have found that people over 50 who had never smoked, maintained a healthy weight, ate a healthy diet, exercised regularly, and drank only a moderate amount of alcohol lived about 84 healthy years—a full decade longer than those who did not.

“We can’t turn back our biological clocks, and while there are some aspects of aging outside of our control, there are ways to improve one’s healthspan, or the years one is in good health,” says Andrew Shao, PhD, in a press release. “The symptoms we associate with aging, like wrinkles, loose skin, and stiff joints, are all just outward signs of what is happening inside our bodies at a microscopic level. Our cells are, in fact, failing. By reducing stressors on our cells, like sun exposure and excess alcohol consumption, and adding supplementation that can support our health at the cellular level, then we have a fighting chance at aging healthier.”

If you're in or approaching your 30s, enjoy that time. But keep in mind that it doesn't have to be all downhill from there. Do what you can to stay healthy, keep up with your loved ones, and enjoy your life. A little optimistic thinking goes a long way.

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