The Importance of the Baby Boom Cohort and the Great Recession in Understanding Age, Period, and Cohort Patterns in Happiness.


Journal Article

Twenge, Sherman, and Lyubomirsky (TSL) claim that long-term cultural changes have increased young adults' happiness while reducing mature adults' happiness. To establish their conclusion, TSL use trend analyses, as well as more sophisticated mixed-effects models, but their analyses are problematic. In particular, TSL's trend analyses ignore a crucial cohort effect: well-known lower happiness among baby boomers. Furthermore, their data aggregation obscures the ephemerality of a recent period effect: the Great Recession. Finally, TSL overlook a key finding of their mixed-effects models that both pre- and post-Boomer cohorts became happier as they aged from young to mature adults. Our reanalyses of the data establish that the Baby Boomer cohort, the short-lived Great Recession, and unfortunate data aggregation account for TSL's results. The well-established, long-term relationship between age and happiness remains as it has been for decades despite any cultural shifts that may have occurred disfavoring mature adults.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bardo, AR; Lynch, SM; Land, KC

Published Date

  • April 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 8 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 341 - 350

PubMed ID

  • 30333903

Pubmed Central ID

  • 30333903

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1948-5514

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1948-5506

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/1948550616673874


  • eng