Middle age makes you miserable, so don't blame your job, your kids, your spouse, your income or lack of it, suggests an international study of 2 million people from 80 nations released today.This actually reassures me a lot that it's a normal stage and will eventually pass. Age forty is when you should be peaking, so if you're not where you want to be—which I'm not, when it comes to career—you realize that you'll probably never get much higher than you are now, and that takes some real adjusting.
Researchers from Great Britain and the USA analyzed data spanning more than 35 years on measures such as depression, anxiety, mental well-being, happiness and life satisfaction.
They found that men and women in their 40s were more likely to be depressed and weren't as happy as other ages. Middle age is such a low point for well-being that it's at the bottom of a U-shaped curve that indicates greater happiness among the young and old.
"It's midlife per se," says co-author Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. "It's something deep beyond all the controls in our equation. It's a developing midlife low. It doesn't just happen one year and go away another."
For both sexes, the probability of depression peaks around age 44.
Oswald doesn't have any concrete answers on why such a slump occurs.
"My best conjecture is that people eventually learn to quell their infeasible aspirations," he says. "They manage to get their expectations into line with what they can actually achieve."
"You can be almost certain you will follow this U-shaped curve," Oswald says. "If you are finding life tough in your 40s, maybe it's useful to know this is completely normal."
Why can't I just be satisfied with what I have and feel trust and hope for the future? I guess I just gotta grit my teeth and get through this. Not that it's bad every day, but I'd say I feel anxious or dissatisfied on two or three days of every week.
I'm just saying that the midlife crisis is unexpectedly real and emotionally intense, and I'm in the middle of it.