Here’s why your jealousy may change as you age

Here’s why your jealousy may change as you age

Changes in envy might develop as a person grows older, and jealousy can change throughout a person’s lifetime, according to research.

The study published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology found that people in their 20s become more jealous of other’s physical appearance and social status, but, once in their 30s, the reasons for jealousy change. As people age, they become increasingly more jealous of money and wealth and less envious of romantic relationships, social status and looks.

Approximately 40 percent of participants under 30 years old said they envied others for their success in romance, while fewer than 15 percent of those over 50 had the same feelings, according to the study.

Study researchers theorized that change in envy could be due to the fact that after people turn 30, they have secured their friendships and accepted their social position but become increasingly jealous of one’s economic or academic status. Researchers also found that people were less likely to envy those they have “family-like” relationships with. Envy by close friends was reported to be three times more likely than envy by relatives.

Dr. Chandragupta Vedak, a psychiatrist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., believes that jealousy is a natural emotion that stems from people’s needs as human beings.

“People in the same age group compete for the same need, pitching the ‘haves’ against the ‘have-nots’ in that group,” he says. “For example, Maslow’s need for love and belonging afflicts those in their 20s, perhaps leading to jealousy. In their 30s and 40s, this need changes to one for esteem, which explains the jealousy over money and status.”

The researchers said more studies are needed to determine what the cause of these differences in aging are caused by.

“My hunch, though,” said Christina Harris, study researcher from the University of California-San Diego, “is that the hold envy has on people diminishes with time. My guess is that it’s good news about aging.”

Related Posts



  1. Interesting. I’d like to think that I can avoid this for three reasons: 1) I don’t see life as a zero sum game. If someone else is fortunate, good for him or her. It does not take away from my life. 2) I prefer to count my blessings. There are millions of people in the world who would change places with me in a heartbeat. I need to remember that. 3) Avoiding jealousy, like forgiveness, can be a gift that one gives to oneself.

  2. The law of conservation of energy comes to play here. We can only make exchanges with the universe. Any gains we obtain are set off by the incurred losses that accompany them. The more wealth one has, the less personal freedom that person has. Skills are only developed by giving up one’s free time to focus on them. I may be a good astronomer and baseball player but I don’t dance all that well. Women are not attracted to me but children are drawn to me like a magnet. I never became wealthy but had free time to dedicate to my special needs son – who still lives with me after 44 years and makes a wonderful companion.

    Yet, I have had one jealousy all my life. Being a celiac I have often envied how people can walk away from a meal without pain or fear of food.

About the Author

Liz Donofrio
Liz Donofrio

Liz Donofrio, health enews contributor, is a marketing specialist at Advocate Health Care. As a newlywed, she is happy to be done planning her wedding and enjoying spending time with her husband and new extended family. In her free time, you can find Liz cooking new tasty recipes for her family, attending Chicago sporting events and chasing after her shih tzu-yorkie, Buttons.