There is a certain perception of older people in the media as rather grumpy and suspicious folks. It’s a perception that couldn’t be further from the truth, with a recent study revealing that we often get much less suspicious and cynical as we get older.
Indeed, the results suggest that we get more trusting as we age, which can have wide-ranging benefits for both our professional and personal lives.
"When we think of old age, we often think of decline and loss," the authors say.
"But a growing body of research shows that some things actually get better as we age," they continue. "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 benefits of a little trust
The studies tested whether there was an association between our trust levels and our age. They sampled nearly 200,000 people from over 80 countries, with the results revealing that there is a consistent link between trust and age, with people frequently becoming more trusting as they get older. What’s more, the findings are consistent throughout the last 30 years, suggesting that it isn’t something unique to a particular era.
"This suggests that it’s not simply about people being born at certain times," the authors say.
This hypothesis was tested further in a second study that tracked nearly 1,250 people across the United States over a number of years to see whether they too became more trusting as they aged.
"For Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers alike, levels of trust increase as people get older," the researchers say. "People really seem to be ’growing to trust’ as they travel through their adult years."
The researchers suggest that older people may becoming more trusting as there is an increased motivation to give back to other people. This then encourages them to believe other people to also be good and trustworthy.
"We know that older people are more likely to look at the bright side of things," the authors say. "As we age, we may be more likely to see the best in other people and forgive the little letdowns that got us so wary when we were younger."
While there can, of course, be a risk of excessive trust, the authors suggest that there was no evidence that older people were more likely to fall for scams than people in other age groups.
What’s more, they also found a positive connection between the level of trust we exhibit and our general emotional wellbeing. This boost was consistent across the age ranges, which suggests that being trusting can give our wellbeing a significant boost.
Previous studies have highlighted how important trust is to things such as collaboration at work. With an increasing number of organisations striving to be more collaborative and innovative, the research suggests that trust should be at the heart of such efforts.
That it provides so many other benefits aside from that is surely an added bonus and should hopefully provide us with no excuses not to be trusting in future.
Do you find yourself becoming more trusting as you get older? Do you think this is a good thing? Your thoughts and comments below please...