These Are the Ages You’re Best at Everything, According to Science

Though our youth is steeped in promise, scientific studies have shown that we go on to excel at various skills well into middle age and beyond. Like a fine wine, some things just get better with age. Let's take a look.

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When learning a second language is easiest

girlChinnapong/ShutterstockWe're at peak ability to learn a foreign language around age 7 or 8, according to an infographic from Business Insider that details our various peak times based on scientific studies and surveys. Xavier Amador, PhD, an internationally renowned clinical psychologist, was skeptical of the infographic's claims at first, but he supports this point. "There is in fact quite a lot of reliable scientific research that has been replicated indicating things like acquiring the second language is far easier before the age of 8," he told Reader's Digest. It's widely accepted that trying to learn a second language is easier before puberty than after, according to the National Institutes of Health.

When brain processing power is at its height

studyingCandyBox Images/ShutterstockFor a study published in 2016, cognitive scientists analyzed brain processing power using a digital symbol coding test. Participants in the test had to match a set of numbers to their corresponding symbols. On average, 18 year olds were the most successful at acing the matching. These weird brain exercises can help you get smarter at any age.

You're best at these things in your 20s...

satisfactionAntonio Guillem/ShutterstockAt 22, the ability to remember unfamiliar names is at its best

It's an embarrassing reality, but we can all likely attest to forgetting the name of someone we've just met moments after they've introduced themselves. Do you own up to it and ask them again? Maybe hit them with a fun fact: According to a 2010 study, you peak at recalling a stranger's name at age 22 (unless you are 22, in which case, maybe just don't say anything).

Men are most attracted to women in their early 20s, while women's attraction to men seems to change with age.

Using data from his dating site, OKCupid, co-founder Christian Rudder explains in his book Dataclysm that men find women the most attractive in their early 20s. And no matter how old they get, they still prefer women in this age range. Women in their 20s, on the other hand, prefer men about a year or two older than them, while women in their 30s are more tuned in to men a few years younger than them.

At 23, life satisfaction is at its highest.  All things considered, 23 is the magic number for feeling particularly satisfied with your life. The conclusion is based on a survey of 23,000 people in Germany. These quotes hold the secret to happiness at any age.

Your muscles are their strongest at age 25. At 25, your physical strength is at its peak, and stays this way for the following 10 to 15 years. This trait is among the ones you can improve easiest, with the help of the right workout.

Your desire to settle down is highest at age 26. According to the 37 percent rule of statistics, at 26, you've met enough people to have some solid options without waiting so long that everyone begins pairing off without you. Research also shows that divorce rates are lowest for couples who marry between the ages of 28 and 32.

The best age for running marathons is 28.  Want to be an elite marathoner? A 50-year analysis of marathons concluded that at age 28, average competitors can complete the race in just over 2 hours.

Bones are the strongest at the age of 30. Bone mass, or the amount of bone tissue in the skeleton, is capable of growing until you reach 30 years old. At this age, bones are at their peak strength and density. Calcium intake and Vitamin D can help keep bones healthier for longer, but they will eventually begin to weaken regardless.

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You're best at these things in your 30s...

chessRad K/ShutterstockChess players are best around age 31.

As a means for determining whether physical and intellectual skills get better with age, scientists studied chess grand masters, and found that by taking the scores of 96 grand masters over the course of their careers, on average competitors are most successful around age 31. Brush up on your chess playing skills.

You can accurately recognize faces of strangers at 32 years of age.

You may be best at recalling strangers' names at age 22, but give it 10 years and you'll be doing double takes on the street when you realize you've seen that person before, according to lab tests.

You're best at these things in your 40s...

womanKinga/ShutterstockNobel Prize winners make their big discovery at 40.

A study by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research found that, on average, the age at which Nobel Prize-winning research is conducted is around 40. And according to the authors, even people who aren't on their way to nailing a Nobel tend to do their best work in middle age. Though Dr. Amador takes issue with using averages to arrive at this number. "If you have an 80-year-old and a 20-year-old in your sample your average will be 40—an average doesn't tell you anything unless you know some other statistics such as the range of ages and the median age."

Women's salaries are highest at age 39, while men's are at about 48.

While it's safe to assume that your salary will continue to rise over time on account of promotions and cost of living increases, it's interesting to see what the data show: An analysis by Payscale found that women earn the most when they're 39, with a median income of $60,000, which is in part a result of women's salaries growing more slowly beginning at age 30. Men, on the other hand, see salaries peak when they're about 48 or 49, at a median income closer to $95,000.

Understanding of other people's emotions peaks in your 40s and 50s.

Researchers had 10,000 participants look at pictures cropped closely around the subject's eyes, and asked them to explain the emotion of the person in the picture. The study found that people in their 40s and 50s were best at gauging the true emotions.

When arithmetic skills are highest

calculatorPORTRAIT IMAGES ASIA BY NONWARIT/ShutterstockPerhaps you aced your math tests in elementary school, but research shows that 50 year olds are best at answering arithmetic questions quickly. Even if you're not a numbers wizard, these math jokes will get you giggling.

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When life satisfaction sees a second peak

olderwomanracorn/ShutterstockThe study in Germany that found 23 year olds were particularly satisfied with their lives found that, following a dip in middle age, life satisfaction peaks once again at age 69. The researchers also found that people over 60 had better life satisfaction than people 55 and older thought they would feel five years later. Here's how to be happier every day in any decade.

When your vocabulary is greatest

speakingAdam Gregor/ShutterstockIn grade school, teachers attempt to cram your brain full of vocabulary words, so perhaps you'd assume that a student would have the most extensive vocabulary. However, multiple-choice vocabulary tests have revealed that people's scores were highest in their late 60s and 70s compared to any other age group.

When you have the most body confidence

bodyeldar nurkovic/ShutterstockYou might hear a middle-aged person tell a teen or 20-something to enjoy their fast metabolisms and forgiving bodies while they can, but a Gallup survey found that two-thirds of Americans over 65 said they always like the way they look. Perhaps self-love and acceptance become much more prevalent than yearning for or trying to obtain something other than exactly who you are.

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When you have the greatest wisdom

readingSFIO CRACHO/ShutterstockMillennials have an edge in the technology department, but when it comes to mastering classic life lessons, older really is wiser. A team of psychologists asked people to read about a conflict and then asked them a series of questions regarding their ability to see from someone else's point of view, anticipate change, consider multiple possible outcomes, acknowledge uncertainty, and search for compromise. The oldest group, with people between 60 and 90, outperformed every other age group in almost every respect. It's time to place less emphasis on generations and focus more on age, according to Psychologist Jake Breeden, PhD, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Compelling recent research has debunked the hype about differences between millennials versus boomers versus Gen X. "If a 28-year-old had an iPhone 7 and 1,000 Snapchat followers in 1977, they would very likely behave the same way they do in 2017," Dr. Breeden told Reader's Digest. "Belonging to a generation matters much less than simply being a certain age. We can't time travel to test this, of course. But what we can show, with compelling research such as the peak age studies, is that many of the supposed truths about millennials are myths."

When you have the most psychological well-being

thinkingESB Professional/Shutterstockstudy published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science discovered that when people were asked to picture a 10-step ladder, with the best possible life on the top rung and the worst possible life on the bottom rung, it was the oldest group, between 82 and 85 years, that gave the highest average rung number, which was about 7. Perhaps they know the secret to life satisfaction is not the pursuit of happiness, but finding meaning.

When we make the biggest decisions

thinkingRawpixel.com/ShutterstockWhen a round-numbered birthday is next in line, researchers found that people are very keen on making big life changes, for better or worse. We're talking about extramarital affairs, suicides, and first-time marathons for those turning 29, 39, 49, and 59. What will you do before your next big decade?


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