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Happy elderly Swedes are 'eternal teenagers'

Emma Löfgren · 20 Mar 2015, 12:04

Published: 20 Mar 2015 12:04 GMT+01:00

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With Friday marking the International Day of Happiness, the EU's statistics agency has released fresh figures showing just how satisfied Europeans are with their lives.

It probably come as little surprise that Sweden, which has consistently been high up in happiness lists for decades now, came out among the top in the new survey.

The Eurostat study asked people across the EU to rate their life satisfaction on a scale of zero to ten, with zero indicating “not satisfied at all” and ten meaning “fully satisfied”.

Swedes across all age groups gave an average answer of 8.0, which was good enough to put Sweden in a four-way tie for first place with Denmark, Finland and Switzerland.

Interestingly, while the study found that throughout the EU young people tend to be more satisfied with life than elderly respondents, that trend is reversed both in Sweden and Denmark.

People aged 25-34 are the unhappiest in Sweden, rating their life satisfaction at a mere 7.8, whereas their older counterparts in the age bracket 65-74 ranked it a whopping 8.3, just behind Denmark at 8.6 and Switzerland at 8.4.

“We live longer and are healthier. A 65-year-old nowadays has many good years left after their pension. Their health is better and they feel that they can live their life. We notice with our readers that they spend a copious amount of time travelling and holidaying abroad, and take part in a lot of activities,” Gunilla Lindahl, editor-in-chief of Veteranen ('The Veteran'), a membership magazine for Swedish pensioners' organization SPF, told The Local.

The survey comes just weeks after research at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg suggested that elderly Swedes have more and better sex than ever, thanks to improved health and changing norms in society.

And Lindahl said that the stereotypical image of a pensioner being an old lady with a handbag does not exist anymore.

“People born in the 1940s are part of the rock generation. They grew up listening to the Stones, Beatles and Elvis and are eternal teenagers, even when they get older,” she said.

READ MORE: Pensioners recruit ageing Swedish rockers

Swedes over the age of 75 gave their life satisfaction an rating of 8.1, a small dip compared to just after pension age, but still higher than the younger age groups.

“It's great to hear that they too feel pleased with their lives. Of course it's not the case for everyone and many feel that they are overlooked by society. But all in all we have a high standard of living here in the North, with possibly better pensions and welfare than in other parts of Europe, where it's often down to the rest of the family to look after its elderly members," said Lindahl.

Our sister site The Local Denmark spoke with the director of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen who said that the results “go against the common perception that we are happy when we are young and then it is all downhill from there.”

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“Some people say that the 46th year of life is a global low point for happiness. One explanation for this could of course be that this is a time when we are pressured both from our career and by our children. Another explanation is that this might be the time of life when we must come to terms with the fact that we are just like everyone else – we're not going to be big movie stars or football players and that might be hard to swallow for some,” Happiness Research Institute CEO Meik Wiking explained.

READ MORE: Sweden best place in the world to grow old

Wiking, whose institute studies happiness trends around the world, also said life satisfaction has a direct impact on life span.

“We know there is a link between happiness and health, so happier people have a lower mortality rate. That means that over time, those who are still alive will have a higher happiness average,” he said.

“It's not that people become happier [as they age], it's that the unhappy ones die,” he said.

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Emma Löfgren (emma.lofgren@thelocal.com)

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