Despair Disappears With Age

A recent study analyzed how four of Erik Erikson’s personality dimensions develop with age. The results suggest that, contrary to popular belief, middle age is actually a very attractive phase of life.
Despair disappears with age

The passage of time leaves deep marks on us all. Getting older every year seems to make people sad. A recent study analyzed how four dimensions of personality develop over time and how things actually improve for many people. Surprisingly, the researchers found that despair often disappears with age.

The four dimensions of personality that the researchers focused on were generativity, stagnation, ego integrity, and despair. These come from Erik Erikson’s personality theory and refer to the extreme extremes of two of the eight psychosocial stages he proposed. The two psychosocial states involved here correspond to the last stages of life.

A series of conflicts that you have to face for your personal development characterize every phase of life. Between the ages of 40 and 60, there is a conflict between stagnation and generativity. Ego integrity and despair, on the other hand, correspond to an age of 60 years and over.

In this article, we’re going to look at the characteristics of each personality dimension in question. We will also review the conclusions of this fascinating study, conducted by a group of researchers led by psychologists Nicky J. Newton and Elisabeth A. Vanderwater  , and then published in the Journal of Research in Personality .

Stagnation, on the other hand, refers to a lack of personal growth or the development of these generative skills.  It is characterized by a low tolerance towards frustration and insecurity.

Generativity and stagnation

Generativity is the personality dimension that relates to the degree of active participation in building a healthy future. This dimension develops understanding and consideration for others. This will enable you to look beyond the surface to pinpoint the problem and provide advice based on the wisdom you have gained over time.

Stagnation, on the other hand, refers to a lack of personal growth or the development of these generative skills. It is characterized by a low tolerance towards frustration and insecurity. When you stagnate, you are not good at handling problems that require complex analysis.

Ego Integrity and Despair

Ego integrity is the ability to recover from difficult situations. In other words, it relates to resilience. The integrity of the ego is characterized by a feeling of satisfaction with one’s own life, which forms the basis for good self-control.

Despair, on the other hand, refers to a lack of ego integrity. This dimension is associated with feelings of despair; you feel like your life has no meaning. Despair makes you hostile to others and to situations that you don’t understand.

The study that found that despair disappears with age

166 women between the ages of 43 and 72 took part in the study. The study had four phases over a period of 28 years (1986-2014). During this time, the researchers track the four personality dimensions mentioned above in their subjects.

The data showed a consistent increase in generativity and ego integrity between ages 43 and 70. However, the stagnation reached its highest level around the age of 60 and then began to decline.

After all, despair was the first dimension to peak. The highest levels of desperation manifest around the age of 50, but then drop dramatically between the ages of 60 and 70.

Research showed that despair disappears with age, while positive emotions gain strength.

Feelings of despair and how despair disappears with age

Research showed that despair disappears with age, while positive emotions gain strength. During the last stages of the participants’ lives, feelings of despair disappeared as a result of increased ego integrity.

Stagnation also decreased significantly, while generativity and integrity remained constant or increased over time. The researchers believe that this reduction in stagnation is also related to a new sense of personal development generated by the integrity of the ego.

In summary, these results are very hopeful. It seems that good conflict resolution in later stages of life could lead to a significant reduction in despair and a significant increase in positive personality dimensions. That is why it may be advisable to face middle age with enthusiasm and openness. If this research is actually true, you will be more active and resilient in your later years.

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