Depressed? Unhappy? Fed up with life? According to a bunch of French professor-types who spend their time researching these things, that’s not in the least bit surprising. They’ve plotted a contentment curve showing that well-being is all to do with age: if you’ve answered yes, you’re almost certainly under 50; if none of the above applies, it’s a safe bet you’re one of our older readers.
Given average lifespans in the developed world, the work of Cédric Afsa and Vincent Marcus of the Insee Institute makes for fairly depressing reading, regardless of your age. After all, they’re telling you that you’ll spend more than half your life feeling blue. The two social scientists, who have analysed every Eurobaromètre survey published since the early 1970s, have developed what amounts to a happiness index. It shows an inexorable downward slide from your twenties to your mid-fifties when, viagra-like, the index climbs sharply upward to reach its apogee at the age of 65.
Unsurprisingly, our French boffins believe well-being is formed from a cocktail of different ingredients, and not all of them are to do with your prowess between the sheets or whether you have driven a Harley Davidson across the United States. There are some telling economic reasons too: by the time you reach your sixties, your earnings are relatively higher because you get taxed a lot less and those expensive bits of your life (mortgage, children’s education) have all been paid off.
It is a small wonder that we need two academics to tell us the blatantly obvious. But more often than not this kind of research falls into the hands of governments who make public policy decisions on the back of them. Philippe Séguin, a larger-than-life French politician, chairs an influential committee which, among many other things, finds that older people now get too many benefits. The septuagenarian Mr Séguin may be at the cheeriest point of his own gratification graph, but he and his cronies may be about to change things.
Before he does, we should ask what this means for us? It’s been said here before, but aren’t we in danger of missing a trick? We focus so much of our promotional spend on hordes of difficult children, anxious teenagers and depressed middle-aged parents, but tend to forget about those happy-go-lucky 60-year-olds. When they’re not too busy travelling the world, they’re likely to be walking up and down the fresh produce aisle at your local superstore deciding which fresh fruits and vegetables they need.
We all know the developed world is greying more quickly than ever before. Baby-boomers are now approaching retirement and, so say the two researchers quoted at the top of this piece, they are about to enter the happiest moment of their lives.
Survey after survey shows that older people tend to eat more fresh produce and look after themselves better. There are more of them now than ever before and they’re better informed than they ever have been. They’re also much more open to listen to our promotional messages and, what is more, receive them online, in-store and in print (remember newspapers?). Plus they’ve got more disposable income to hand and, lest we forget, it’s arguably the happiest time of their lives. So be bold with your next promotion: go after those grey beards.