Why Are Older Workers Happier?

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by Jake Richardson

Most workers 50 years old or more are somewhat to very satisfied with their jobs according to the Associated Press – NORC Center for Public Affairs Research Survey. Though some of the surveyed workers indicated they have experienced some negative comments about their age, they generally still report being happier with their work than their younger counterparts do.


There are probably several reasons for this trend. Older workers have likely developed more of an awareness of what kind of work they like. They may have tried a range of different jobs and learned the ones to avoid. Unhappy experiences taught them self-awareness as well, so they focus on what is important to them. Trial and error is a common way of figuring out what kind of work we like and dislike, though the actual experiences might be painful. In the long-term, we can look back and can be grateful for the hard times because of what they taught us. Older people often have the advantage of this kind of life perspective.

Follow your passion + purpose

Older workers might also have figured out that there is more happiness in doing purposeful work, which means contributing to the greater good.

Younger workers might first focus on money, status or an entertaining lifestyle, but research has shown the longer lasting happiness is associated with purpose, and it may help maintain our health,“This purpose-based sense of well-being and happiness is actually linked to less risk of illness such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, osteoporosis and physical disability for the elderly. Being committed to doing greater good may seem to be connected to less happiness in the short-term though, because it requires more giving and effort, rather than self-indulgence.”  (Source: Delivering Happiness at Work)

Purpose-based happiness is about altruism, which includes compassion, kindness, empathy and forgiveness. These intentions can also be virtues or values that guide us in being focused on contributing to the greater good.  Older people also may have the advantage of being clear about their values and appreciating purpose at work and in their communities. It could also be that they are happier because they have achieved some status in their work places and have achieved a level of income they like.

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