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How a Physician’s Life Satisfaction Can Improve with Age


Looking back on my 20s and the rigors of med school, I definitely feel more grounded now.

My husband and I celebrated our 40th birthday together (we were born about a week apart) this past weekend.  We had a wonderful party with our friends.  One of the topics of conversation was whether the 40s were better than the 30s. One friend assured me that in your 40s you relax more and enjoy things. Other friends listed a litany of minor injuries that plagued them starting in their 40s. I personally am looking forward to the decade in which my children will graduate high school and I will celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary - both significant blessings.

Researchers at Florida State University conducted a study to find out if your life satisfaction increases as you age. The good news is that it does. The researchers point out that some generations, like those born during the Depression, start out with an overall lower life satisfaction but trend up just like other generations, increasing decade after decade. The researchers note that challenges faced early in life can affect you decades later, by starting you out with an overall lower life satisfaction.

I think many people will identify the 20s as a great decade. You’re an adult but you’re young, you have your whole future in front of you, and the mistakes you make in your 20s are often overcome later in life. However, as I recently discovered when I found my journal from medical school, the 20s are often better in retrospect than they were in actuality. While you have your whole future ahead of you, you also have YOUR WHOLE FUTURE ahead of you. The burden of figuring out what you want to do with your life and then setting out to do it is daunting.

I thought that I never questioned being a doctor once I started medical school.  It was challenging on multiple levels but I remember being sure of my future profession.  As my journal tells me, though, that is not the case. I questioned being a doctor during Gross Anatomy as I spent more time with a cadaver than I did with any living human being. I questioned it when I realized I was considered “essential personnel” and would be slogging through snow at 3 in the morning to do my job. It’s strange how time erases those memories.

I definitely feel more grounded, settled, confident, and content entering this newest decade of my life. Everything I worked for, worried about, and planned in my 20s and 30s is now a reality. It is mine to enjoy. 

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