19th November 2008

As others of the 'baby-boomer' generation will have noticed, changes in society have followed us all along our life's journey. But have you also noticed that scientists often spend a lot of time, effort and cash to come up with a result that we knew all along? 'New' research from the national statistical institute has found that the French are happier in their mid-sixties than at any other time of their lives. Enjoyment of life goes downhill from the age of 20 and reaches a trough when people reach 50. Then la joie de vivre kicks in just before retirement age and builds to a peak in the late sixties. Good! That suits me fine. The researchers, via Insee, the statistics institute, produced their study from annual surveys since 1975 by the E.U.'s Eurobarometer agency. The downward trend to midlife misery is broadly matched around Europe. The sixties "are an age when leisure time, health and good income come together," the report says. Yes: that's why I wrote my 'Paradis' book.
The happiness curve suggests a correlation here: France offers earlier and better-paid retirement to its citizens than any other big European state. The French in their sixties report greater happiness than most other Europeans. So early retirement makes people happy. Wasn't it the philosopher Mill who said that we should all pursue personal happiness, so long as it doesn't harm others.
But what's this I read today? M. Sarkozy now wants to raise the retirement age to 70! 'You can't use a "pay-as-you-go" system if the number of workers is decreasing relative to those who are retiring.'
So here we go again. Some people never learn.

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