Happiness as we age - is it just in your head?

Good news - it's not just your imagination; scientists is now suggesting that the older you get, the happier you really do feel.

It seems that age does wonderful things for the brain and the human condition, allowing those small, subtle anxieties that once plagued us to be more easily cast away. And it appears that there is now proof of this, with new research giving us cause for celebration; being happy evidently gets easier as the years goes by.

Several worldwide studies have shown a clear link between happiness and age. US researcher Carol Graham's Why Aging and Working Makes us Happy in 4 Charts shows human happiness as a U-shaped curve.

Our happiness starts off moderate when we're 18 (ah, youth is wasted on the young!), reaches to its lowest point at the aged of 40, and then up, up, up, the skies the limit, well into our 90s. Just like the shape of a smile, which is serenely apt. And there appears to be little variation in this trend worldwide.

In another US study conducted between 1885 and 1980, a clear link between age and happiness was also displayed; however, overall happiness did depend on when a person was born. People born during difficult times in history, such as the Great Depression, had lower overall happiness rates from the get go.

Other factors that influence our happiness include staying reasonably healthy, forming a stable relationship and being able to find pleasure in our work. Unemployment was also found to have a profound impact on overall levels of happiness levels, while women pipped men at the post with a slight edge on happiness as they aged (sorry boys...)

However, despite these barriers what all studies showed was that despite these variations in happiness, what was uniform was that everyone's happiness still went upwards, whether an upturned grin or little Mona Lisa smile, simply because they aged.

Happiness, it turns out, is key to what keeps us going - keeping engaged in the world, invested in our family and friends and eager to pass on our culture from one generation to the next.

So for those with young families in the thick of their sleep-deprived, financially-strapped haze, hold on tight as happiness appears to be just around the corner. All it takes is patience and a few more wrinkles.

And for retirees, well bring out the helium balloons as the only way is up, quite literally. Remind yourself with confidence (and possibly a hint of glee) that being the happiest old duck or drake in the room is a supremely normal and important state.