With financially unprepared boomers careening toward a retirement train wreck, a new, international study showing a “happiness premium” for late-life workers may have come just in time.
Indeed, the recently published paper by Brookings senior fellow Carol Graham and University of Maryland professor Milena Nikolova suggests that re-envisioning work may offer multiple benefits aside from enhanced well being (colloquially referred to as happiness).
These include a reduction of the burdens on unsustainable public pensions and increased opportunities for younger people struggling to enter the labor market, with both older and younger people happier as a result of work arrangements better suited to their respective life situations.
In a Brookings summary of the report, the authors note that the determinants of happiness are remarkably consistent across countries and culture.
Age is a key factor, with age 40 — a time when overburdened working parents may be at peak stress — representing an international low point in happiness within a U-curve, with high points at age 18 matched at the other end at around 65, followed by continually rising peaks of happiness into the seventies, eighties and nineties.
Health, marriage, income and employment are also positively associated with happiness. On the flipside, unemployment is associated with unhappiness — and even if the jobless are compensated for their lost income through welfare payments, they are less happy than “identical employed counterparts,” the report finds.
The study’s authors focused particularly on the relationship between employment, work arrangements and happiness and concluded:
“voluntary part-time workers are happier, experience less stress and anger, and are more satisfied with their work than other workers. In addition … older workers who remain in the labor force under voluntary part-time or full-time arrangements have higher well-being than comparable retirees.”