Aging Well
Mental & Emotional Health
Senior Health

Trust Grows as People Get Older

Instead of being grumpy and suspicious, people may actually grow more trusting with age, according to new researchers.

That development can be beneficial to well-being.

“When we think of old age, we often think of decline and loss,” said study co-author Claudia Haase, an assistant professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy.

“But a growing body of research shows that some things actually get better as we age,” Haase said. “Our new findings show that trust increases as people get older and, moreover, that people who trust more are also more likely to experience increases in happiness over time.”

The researchers’ work, made up of two studies, were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

According to a news release from Northwestern, in the first study, the researchers examined the association between age and trust at multiple points in history, looking at 197,888 individuals from 83 countries. The results suggested a positive association between age and trust, one that has existed for at least the past 30 years with little change over time.

“This suggests that it’s not simply about people being born at certain times,” said study coauthor Michael Poulin, associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo.

The second study followed 1,230 people in the U.S. over time and reached a similar conclusion: these individuals became more trusting as they aged.

“For Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers alike, levels of trust increase as people get older,” said Haase, who directs Northwestern’s Life-Span Development Lab. “People really seem to be ‘growing to trust’ as they travel through their adult years.”

Although trust can have negative consequences, especially among older adults at risk of falling for scams and fraud, the studies found no evidence that negative consequences erode the benefits of trust.

“Both studies found a positive association between trust and well-being that was consistent across the life span, suggesting that trust is not a liability in old age,” Poulin said.


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