The next time you see a 40-something mom with a big smile on her face, you'll now why. According to a study of over 200,000 people from over 86 countries, people over the age of 40 who have children are happier than those over 40 without children, while those men and women under 30 with children are less happy than those under 30 who are child-free.
While researchers aren't quite sure why older parents are beaming with joy, their report turned up that having more children makes older parents even happier—for parents over 50, each additional child increased the likelihood the adult would report feeling happy. On the other hand, multiple kids made the 20-something set miserable. For most parents under 30, those with two children appeared unhappier than those with one child. Likewise, single-child parents tended to be unhappier than adults with no children.
The study did not look at the ages of the children in families with older versus younger parents, but when it comes to explaining why young parents tend to be unhappy, it could be that in the early stages of parenting, positive aspects of having children are overshadowed by negative experiences such as lack of sleep, concerns about the child's well-being, and financial strains. As a child grows up and eventually becomes an independent adult, it's less stressful for parents as they hit the 40- to 60-year-old mark, researchers speculate.
But what about older parents dealing with the sleep deprivation and diaper duty? It might just come easier for them, as other studies have point out. Older first-time parents, especially older women, tend to express more self-confidence in their role of new mom. Because they tend to better off financially than women in their 20s, moms in their 40s express fewer financial concerns and are generally more satisfied with their choice to become a parent—factors that may give happiness a big boost.