Age is one of the overarching factors affecting how happy we are in life. People in their 70s or older tend to be the happiest of all generations; various studies confirm this. UM's annual study of consumers' media consumption and lifestyles, Media in Mind, shows women who are 70-plus tend to be the happiest of all. Forty-nine percent of women age 70-plus agree a lot with the statement "I am very happy with my life as it is."
The closest age group to the average score of 33% is older Millennials, those aged 30-39, who also score 33%. If older Millennials mirror the U.S. norm, then what makes them happy and, possibly more important, what can make them happier still? Three main insights are offered by Media in Mind.
Being married increases a 30-39-year-old's chance of agreeing a lot with being "very happy with life" by almost half, +47%. Yet understandably, the value of marriage is only likely to be true of happy unions. For example, separate research reveals that individuals in conflict-ridden relationships have higher levels of inflammation, leading to many age-related diseases, weaker responses to vaccination and slower healing rates.
Evidence from UM's Media in Mind is slightly less clear cut about the value of having children. The happiness score for having one child in the home is similar to childless homes, but if we broaden the question from "agree a lot" to "any agree" with being happy with life, then it does increase by about +20%.
Similarly, money, apparently, does not necessarily buy happiness. Only 36% of older Millennials with a household income above $100K feel they are very happy with life which is identical to other 30-39s in homes with lower incomes. Instead, the key to happiness appears to be related, at least in part, to life's attitudes.
Three main attitudes about our lives unearth much about what makes people happy and rise to the top of over 200+ psychographic statements:
The importance of family reflects what we saw about happy marriages. Although the family is a strong engine of American values, what constitutes "family" is very much up to the individual. Fewer than half (46%) of U.S. kids under 18 are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. This is a marked change from 1960, when 73% of children matched this description.
Among happy older Millennials, two self-concepts shine through: Being "trustworthy and competent" and "kind and goodhearted." Exactly three-quarters, 75%, of women in this cohort agree a lot with at least one of these self-concepts, while 70% of men associate closely with at least one of these statements.
Crucially for marketers is the leading corporate statement "It is important companies act ethically" with 56% of older happy Millennials agreeing with this psychographic. This echoes research by Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer for P&G, who found that 50 leading brands such as Accenture, Amazon and Coca-Cola had outperformed the market in terms of consumer bonding, value creation and profit, while pursuing a clear sense of purpose and ideals. Not to be confused with corporate marketing, having a strong sense of ideals spurs an environment for more meaningful products and services and provides companies with a clear organizing principle to help them identify with consumers.
Two Implications for Marketers
As for happiness itself, as Benjamin Franklin wittily noted: "The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."
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