Archive for January 30th, 2008

Researchers confirmed recently what a lot of people are feeling — the mid-life blues.

Researchers from Great Britain and the U.S. analyzed data of more than two million people and spanning 35 years. They analyzed them for depression, anxiety, happiness and life satisfaction.

They found a U-shaped curve in which people reported being happiest in their 20s and in their 50s and older, but that both men and women were more likely to be depressed and were generally less happy in their 40s.

In fact, they discovered that for both sexes, the probability of depression peaks around the age of 44.

Not everybody is convinced the “slump” is all about age or other demographics. Previous happiness studies have suggested that demographics play a small role in overall happiness. For example, past studies have shown no significant differences in subjective well-being based on gender. In addition, some researchers have noted some differences in the age curve based on a particular culture or country.

One of the co-authors of the study, Andrew Oswald, an economics professor at the University of Warwick in Britain, thinks that this U-shaped curve of happiness occurs because people begin to confront their limitations and unrealistic dreams in their 30s and hit a low-point in their 40s. After that, they move past their disappointments and go on to feel more satisfied as they age. Other researchers have suggested that happiness improves with age because of some adaptation mechanism, which allows people to adjust better to changing circumstances.

A third potential explanation is that watching friends and family die off makes people more grateful and satisfied as they age.

Whatever the reasons, the study does point towards paying careful attention to people in the 40s for signs of psychological or mental distress. Mid-life blues could have serious and long-lasting damaging effects to not only the individuals themselves, but to family, friends, and business colleagues as well.

Maybe what’s needed is a mental checkup when one turns 40. We do it for our physical health. Why not do it for our psychological health as well?


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