Men or Women?
I'm sure the answers differ greatly by culture -- as I've been reminded many times, I will preface my comments by saying my observations pertain only to U.S. society:
I find quite the opposite from this report:
I think men are happiest overall when young. We have our goals, our dreams. Everything we value as men are in greatest supply in our youth: Physical strength and stamina, sexual attrativeness and prowess, health and abilities (both mental and physical). Socially, we are most in demand in our youth. I especially recall fondly (and warn my young sons not to rely upon) how just being male made one acceptable to females, especially during the late teens to early 20's. I wasn't rejected for not having enough earnings, material possessions or accomplishments -- I was considered to be worthwhile, with plenty of time to "prove myself".
Somehow, as the 30's progress toward the 40's, this changes. We see how things worked out in our lives, and so do others. Its probably still fine if you're Tom Cruise, or George Clooney, or even Harrison Ford. They proved themselves, they are wealthy and still have hair. But, for the bulk of men -- our dreams didn't materialize, we didn't accomplish so much, we got paunchy/balding. Health problems start to mount. We may be struggling with finances and subject to unemployment via down-sizing and outsourcing. While middle-aged women seem to experience a sexual awakening, the aging man's libido and potentency tend to wane with the rest of his softening, once-hard body. Socially . . . men have spent their lives having mostly superficial relationships with others. As they age, fewer people care for their company or think they have much worth listening to. Once admiring women see the shortcomings of the aging male . . . as the workshop presenter noted, "When I reach about 53, I lost my gender. No one cared anymore if I was male or female. I was not in the running."
I cannot speak so definitely for women, but I note how uncertain and insecure teen girls of my generation were. They were always worried about their attractiveness, if they dressed with the latest fashion (or could afford to), if boys liked them, if girls liked them, if they were seen as "too smart" or "not pretty enough." I'm sure some of this has changed over time. But, youth seems to be an anxious and uncertain time for women -- "Will I marry?" "Will I have children?" "What will I do with my life?" They seem to want and need approval from others, male and female, more than young males do.
But, as women get into their 30's and older, they tend to find themselves, learn who they are and what they want, and they thrive at things like friendships and emotional intinmacy that males usually struggle with. If they have children, this becomes central to their purpose and well-being. I think middle-aged women come to accept their imperfections and enjoy their sexuality (assuming their male counterparts aren't too broke down to perform . . if so, there are always younger men).
I have worked with geriatric populations, and my observations have been that elderly women maintain their abilities better and longer than men. They maintain their interests better and longer. Elderly men tend to see their social world and interests keep dwindling -- elderly women have each other for friendship and activities, as the men tend to stay alone and idle.
Happiness for men is greatest during teens - 20's - early 30's. After that, its gradually downhill (with periods of accerlerated decline along the way)
Happiness for women is greatest during their mid-30's and older. So long as money holds out and health problems are manageable, they tend to do much better with the aging process than men.
I think it's very hard to generalize about something like this. There are so many variables involved- health, financial success, marital success, family, etc. Each phase of life has it's challenges and rewards and pitfalls but it would vary from person to person depending on their particular circumstances and personalities. Some people have rewarding jobs that they enjoy- some hate their jobs. Some have a happy successful marriage, some don't. Some remain in good health all their life, some have poor health.
I will say that in general there is a sense of relief when you get up around 50, you have met your career goals or at least adjusted to what is practical, you have raised your kids and no longer have this huge responsibility, so if you are in good health and financially secure you have a sense of having done what had to be done and now can throttle back in take life easier. But again it can depend so much on individual circumstances.
By the way- I like that Yahoo news summary- nice way to catch up on the news without sitting through endless commercials- and much bigger picture than you usually get on net video.