Study shows that people often get better adjusted as they age

June 24, 2000

Psychological health found to steadily increase after age 30, even for those who were not very healthy teenagers

WASHINGTON -- Being productive, having good interpersonal relationships and behaving compassionately toward others are signs of psychological health and can improve as we age, according to three longitudinal studies that examine psychological health over a 50-year period. The study, reported in this month's Psychology and Aging, which is published by the American Psychological Association, also shows that even not-so-healthy teenagers can become healthier as they age.

Lead author Constance J. Jones, Ph.D., of California State University at Fresno and psychologist William Meredith, Ph.D., of University of California at Berkeley examined psychological health of 236 participants of the Berkeley Growth Study, the Berkeley Guidance Study and the Oakland Growth Study, in an effort to understand the life span development of psychological health. The participants were interviewed at ages 14, 18, 30, 40, 50 and 62 years.

Each participant's measure of psychological health was determined by psychologists' ratings of 73 different aspects of personality based on extensive interviews during adolescence and adulthood. Some of questions included: "Is she/he a dependable and responsible person? Is she/he productive in life? Does he/she value independence and autonomy and also enjoy interacting with others?"

"We found from analyzing our three groups that psychological health steadily increased from 30 years of age to 40, 50 and 62 years of age," said the authors. There were no differences found between the sexes either. While, of course, people are different and some individuals had dramatic increases where others had little or no increases, the average participants showed moderate increases in psychological health in adulthood, according to the study.

While adolescence is typically thought of as a troubled time for most young people, this study found that once people reached adolescence, their psychological health was fairly stable. "Those with greater psychological health in adolescence tended to be psychologically healthier in adulthood than those with less psychological health in adolescence," said Dr. Jones. "Yet, even those with few signs of psychological health in adolescence did eventually show improvement, beginning in adulthood and attaining more as they got older."
Article: "Developmental Paths of Psychological Health From Early Adolescence to Later Adulthood," Constance J. Jones, Ph.D., California State University, Fresno and William Meredith, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, Psychology and Aging, Vol. 15, No. 2.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office or at

Constance J. Jones, Ph.D., can be reached by telephone at 559-278-5127 or by email at CONNIEJ@CSUFRESNO.EDU

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 59 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

American Psychological Association

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