MOST people get happier as they grow older, studies on people aged up to their mid-90s suggest.
Despite worries about ill health, income, changes in social status and bereavements, later life tends to be a golden age, according to psychologists.
They found older adults generally make the best of the time they have left and have learned to avoid situations that make them feel sad or stressed.
The young should do the same, they told the American Psychological Association.
The UK is an ageing nation - in less than 25 years, one in four people in the UK will be over 65 and the number of over-85s will have doubled.
And it is expected there will be 30,000 people aged over 100 by the year 2030.
According to University of California psychologist Dr Susan Turk Charles, this should make the UK a happier society.
By reviewing the available studies on emotions and ageing she found that mental wellbeing generally improved with age, except for people with dementia-related ill health.
Work carried out by Dr Laura Carstensen, a psychology professor at Stanford University, suggested why this might be the case.
Dr Carstensen asked volunteers ranging in age from 18 to mid-90s to take part in various experiments and keep diaries of their emotional state.
She found the older people were far less likely than the younger to experience persistent negative moods and were more resilient to hearing personal criticism.
They were also much better at controlling and balancing their emotions - a skill that appeared to improve the older they became.
Dr Charles explained: Based on work by Carstensen and her colleagues, we know that older people are increasingly aware that the time they have left in life is growing shorter.
They want to make the best of it so they avoid engaging in situations that will make them unhappy.
BBC

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 09-Aug-2009 here.