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© 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. There is now much evidence for a remarkably consistent relationship between age and happiness—“the U curve.” In this paper, we present the first analysis that explores why some nations—and people within them—have turning points that are much earlier while others turn much later. Contributing to past studies, we analyzed the relationship within 46 individual countries, as well as how it varied depending on where in the well-being distribution individuals are, and extended the analysis to stress. The U-shaped relationship between age and happiness held in 44 of the 46 countries, and a reverse U held for stress in almost as many. Our most novel finding is that the timing of the turn varies depending on average country-level happiness and on individuals’ position in the well-being distribution. Our findings highlight the consistency of the relationship as well as how its timing varies across people and places.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Population Economics

Publication Date





225 - 264