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A "mid-life crisis" is real

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Study finds mid-life crisis real and may occur earlier than usual.

A "mid-life crisis" refers to a transitional stage of life that typically occurs between 40 and 60 years of age. The concept originated with psychologist Carl Jung as a normal part of maturation.

Although many middle-aged folks experience an emotional transition due to multiple changes at once (e.g. the death of a parent, becoming empty nesters when children go off to college, divorce, etc.), whether a mid-life crisis is a real and measurable life event has been unclear until recently.

Now, a long-term study has discovered a distinctive drop in happiness that occurs between the ages of 40-42. The study, published by the German-based Institute for the Study of Labor, tracked the happiness levels of tens of thousands of individuals across three different countries over a period of several decades.

Researchers for the study found that, despite a temporary mid-life dip in happiness, people usually regained their happiness later on in life.

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Researcher Dr. Terence Cheng, from the University of Melbourne's Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, said that the research team identified a clear ‘U-shape’ in human wellbeing, confirming that people “really do experience mid-life crises."

The University of Warwick and the London School of Economics assisted in the completion of the study, which evaluated data from surveys in Australia, Britain and Germany.

Dr. Cheng said that the consistency of the results in all three countries was “interesting”, with happiness levels reaching all-time lows between the ages of 40 and 42 years old.

The fact that the study was conducted over several decades also contributed significantly to the accuracy of the study, Cheng added.

SOURCE: Longitudinal Evidence for a Midlife Nadir in Human Well-being: Results from Four Data Sets, Terence C. Cheng, et al, published by the German-based Institute for the Study of Labor, February 2014.