Are your 20s really the best years of your life? What Americans think

Jamie BallardData Journalist
June 25, 2021, 5:45 PM UTC

recent article in The Atlantic argued that despite conventional wisdom, your 20s aren’t necessarily the “best years of your life.” Do Americans agree?  

A YouGov poll of more than 13,000 Americans finds that 24% do believe that your 20s represent the best years of their lives, but a roughly equal amount (23%) believe that the 30s are actually the best years.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people’s thoughts on the best years shift by age. Adults under 20 tend to believe that their 20s (39%) will be the best years, though 23% believe it’s the under-20s time period – in other words, they think they’re currently living the best years of their lives.  

Similarly, two in five (39%) people currently in their 20s think that their 20s represent the best years. But many 20-somethings are looking forward to their next chapter – 23% say they think their 30s will be the best decade.  

Those who are in their 30s tend to also think they’re currently living their best years (32%), though about a quarter (24%) say their 20s were better. Among 40-somethings, 25% think their 40s are the best decade, while a similar percentage (23%) think it was their 20s.  

Those who are past 50 are less likely they are to say their 20s were their best period. Among those in their 50s, 18% think their 20s were the best decade. This figure goes slightly down for those in their 60s (14% say their 20s were the best) and 70s (11%).  

See full results here.  

Related: Americans say the 1970s and 1980s were the best music decades  
 
Methodology: 13,557 US adults were surveyed, including 145 18-to 19-year-olds, 1,666 20-to 29-year-olds, 2,674 30-to 39-year-olds, 1,960 40-to 49-year-olds, 2,441 50-to 59-year-olds, 2,834 60-to 69-year-olds, 1,494 70-to 79-year-olds, and 324 80-to 89-year-olds. This survey was conducted June 14 – 20, 2021. The responding sample is weighted to be representative of the US population.