If you’re wanting kids because you think they’ll make you happier, the results of a recent study might convince you not to toss your pills just yet — unless you’ve passed your 30th birthday. The study tracked the happiness levels of parents in 86 countries and found that for younger parents, the little bundles of joy often bring the opposite.
In contrast to the prevailing cultural belief that children bring happiness, researchers found that on a scale of one to four, one or two children decreases happiness in adults under 30 by 0.03 units, and four or more children by 0.06 units. For parents putting off being in the family way until after 30, the trend is non-existent. Parents aged 40 years and up actually reported greater happiness from having children.
The study points out that parenting brings such downers as higher stress levels, financial hardship and lack of sleep, which contribute to the few hundredths of a point decreases on their happiness scale.
Studies such as this join others in a current trend that one recently published self-help book calls “The Happiness Trap.” Is happiness — avoidance of stress and hardship — really the goal? If so, then who would want to struggle through college, acquire the discipline to run a marathon or volunteer in a third world country? This book and others argue that perhaps what people really want is a full and meaningful life, with downers and uppers, too.
The results of another recent study found that, paradoxically, the more people value happiness, the more likely they are to feel disappointed.
If all this obsessing about happiness is making you unhappy, here’s a tip that this and other studies agree on: wait a few years, and regardless of whether you’re rich, poor, childless or a Duggar, you’ll be happier with age.