'Happiness gap' between old and young is closing as figures show millennials are getting more upbeat

Olivia Rudgard
Younger people are happier because they have lower expectations, according to a leading psychologist  - www.Alamy.com

The prevailing wisdom is that young people have never had it so tough - but official figures suggest that they might not agree. 

Analysis of ONS data by Telegraph suggests that younger people are getting happier while life satisfaction among the elderly is falling. 

Since last year the proportion of those aged 16 to 24 who said they were very happy rose by two percentage points while the same figure for over-75s fell by the same amount. 

And since 2011 the most significant increase in happiness has been among millennials - specifically, those in their late twenties. 

In 2011, 30 per cent of those aged between 25 and 29 said they felt very happy the day before. This year that rose to 33.6 per cent - the largest increase of any age group. 

There was also a four per cent rise in those who felt their lives were worthwhile. 

An increasing proportion of those in their late teens and early twenties also reported high levels of happiness. 

Historically older people have reported higher levels of happiness than younger people - but a leading psychologist said the gap was narrowing.  

Sir Cary Cooper, professor of psychology and health at the University of Manchester, said that younger people felt less anxiety and were more content because they had limited their expectations about housing and job security

"Younger people are less concerned about the security of their jobs than older people - they don't expect jobs for life. 

"I think they're not that bothered by not being able to buy a house - the older generation expected it, but younger people have given up," he said. 

Meanwhile older people's satisfaction levels have stagnated or in some cases fallen. 

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The most elderly people covered by the data - those aged over 90 - have seen a dramatic fall in life satisfaction over the past five years. 

Almost 8 per cent fewer over-90s said they had a high level of life satisfaction in 2016 than in 2011. 

Older pensioners have seen the most dramatic falls in happiness and well-being - but younger retired age groups have also reported lower life satisfaction. 

Those aged between 75 and 79 and those aged over 90 were the only groups where fewer respondents said they were very happy in 2016 than in 2011. 

Experts suggested that the fall in happiness among older people might be to do with feelings of loneliness and poor health. 

Caroline Abrahams, of older people's charity Age UK, said: "We tend to forget that many older people have it tough. Later life can present a lonely and frightening time."

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Professor Cooper suggested that growing anxiety about the social care system and NHS might also be damaging their happiness.

Figures released today show that almost every measure of British people's happiness has improved or stayed the same during the past year. 

The ONS measures wellbeing based on a survey of 150,000 people.

The official statistics agency also examine a wide variety of figures including renewable energy use, trust in national government, people's perceptions of crime and their financial situations. Just five measures deteriorated since April last year. 

Matthew Steel, head of quality of life at the ONS, said: "Understanding more about how the oldest age groups rate their personal well-being will help society focus on issues that are fundamental to a good later life."

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