Most of us grow happier with time. (Photo: Getty Images)
Feeling blue because you’re 40-something? Well, your state of mind may have nothing do with your age.
According to a team of researchers from Canada, the midlife crisis—a term coined about 50 years ago that was defined as a low point in one’s life that typically happens during one’s expected halfway age—doesn’t even exist.
Contrary to previous work on mental and emotional health and life-span happiness, this new data suggests that happiness does not come to a screeching halt in middle age (which is categorized between 40 to 60). In fact, happiness tends to be on the upswing.
The study authors followed two cohorts: a group of Canadian high school seniors from ages 18-43 (the sample began with 968 students) and a group of university seniors from ages 23-37 (which began with 569 young adults). Both showed happiness increased in the 30s, with a slight downturn by the average age of 43 in the high school participants.
A few other notable conclusions are as follows:
- People are happier in their early 40s than they were at age 18
- Happiness rises fastest between age 18 and well into the 30s
- Happiness is higher in years when people are married and in better physical health, and lower in years when people are unemployed
- The rise in happiness between the teens and early 40s is not consistent with a midlife crisis
- The rise in happiness to midlife refutes the purported “u-bend” in happiness, which assumes that happiness declines between the teens and the 40s
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The researchers claim their information is “far more reliable” than the findings from years ago. “I’m not trashing cross-sectional research, but if you want to see how people change as they get older, you have to measure the same individuals over time,” stated sociologist and study co-author Harvey Krahn in a press release.
“We were not really surprised given that other studies exist showing that midlife is not necessarily a low point in terms of well-being,” Nancy Galambos, the first author on the study and a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Alberta, tells Yahoo Health. “Still, we knew of no study that had documented this trend in the same people for 25 years, so it was interesting to see the results.”
Galambos stresses that this research is “crucial” since happiness is linked with life expectancy, along with well-being. “We want people to be happier so that they have an easier life trajectory,” she explains. "And also they cost less to the health system and society.”
Being that the midlife crisis has been an accepted “condition” for years, we asked Galambos what advice she’d like to share with those adults who still insist they are in a funk solely due to their age.
“We are reluctant to give advice!” she states. “We simply believe that crises and happy times can occur at any point in the lifespan, and these experiences have more to do with changing circumstances in people’s lives more than with how many birthdays they have had.”
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