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Happiness ain't nothing but a number

Not 33 years old? Well, comiserations, saddo, because you're not as happy as you'd be if you were 33 (unless you're 38, or 45, or 74).

As frequently as nutritionists make pronouncements on the healthiness or otherwise of wine or chocolate, pointless polls are conducted to establish the "happiest age", each producing a new result. The latest suggests 33-year-olds have "shaken off childhood naivety... without losing the enthusiasm of youth". A clearer picture appears in a Princeton study published in 2010.

It revealed a U-bend distribution, showing happiness dropping in early adulthood to a low at about 50, before soaring all the way to 85. If life peaks in what Shakespeare called our "second childhood", then let's enjoy the intervening ages of sadness.

Nietzsche: "An age of happiness is quite impossible, because men want only to desire it but not to have it and every individual who experiences good times learns to downright pray for misery and disquietude."