Woman showing jealous friend engagement ring

Why age affects how envious you are

Admit it, you turned a tad green when your friend turned up in that new Porsche Boxster purchased with the proceeds of a stockmarket windfall. There was also that time when your sibling started dating the drop-dead gorgeous booker prize nominated author; it was hard not to feel a touch envious then. Envy is a natural, if not particularly useful, response sometimes and we all feel it to greater or lesser degrees at times but according to a new study your age is a big determinant in how likely you are to fall prey to the green-eyed monster.

The new study involved two separate surveys of people in the age range 18 to 80. The first survey involved around 900 people and asked people to report on their own experiences of being envious. The second study involved around 800 people but this time asked them to reflect on times when they had been the target of envy.

The really interesting thing to come from the study though was that the incidence of envy declined with age.

The results showed that more 75 per cent of subjects reported having experienced envy within that last year (which, given that envy is one of the “seven deadly sins” suggests that we are a sinful lot). Women were slightly more disposed to envy with 79.4 per cent reporting experiencing it compared to 74.1 per cent of men (or is it just that women are more honest?).

The really interesting thing to come from the study though was that the incidence of envy declined with age. Among people younger than 30 a high 80 per cent reported feeling envy in the last year. In those aged 50 and over that figure dropped to 69 per cent.

It also emerged that people tended to feel envy for people similar to themselves; to people of the same gender and within five years age of themselves.

In addition the subject of envy changed with the years. In people under 30 years old around 40 per cent of envy was felt around success in romance while in people over 50 only 15 per cent felt romance-based envy.

The other main differences were gender based with more men envying career success (41.4 per cent vs 24.5 per cent) and more women envying looks (23.8 per cent vs 13.5 per cent).

In all though, it seems that there is an age of envy and that age is youth. Maybe with wisdom envy evaporates or perhaps with age people just can’t be bothered noticing what other people do any more?

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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