THE midlife crisis is real, according to a study showing a steady downhill trajectory in wellbeing for most people from their late teens until their early 40s.
“We have identified a clear U-shape in human wellbeing,” says lead researcher Dr Terence Cheng from the University of Melbourne. The idea of a midlife crisis has been controversial, with academics finding flaws in several previous studies.
“But the jury’s now in,” says Dr Cheng. “People really do experience midlife crises.”
The study, which looks at decades of data from tens of thousands of people in Australia, Germany and Britain, has been published by the German-based Institute for the Study of Labour.
“Human happiness hits the lowest point around the ages of 40 to 42,” says Dr Cheng, who worked with colleagues from the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics.
“What is interesting is the consistency of the results in all of the three countries we examined.” He said it was intriguing that the U-shape pattern had also been observed in recent research on great apes.
“Perhaps we are more similar than we think.”
This article first appeared on ‘The Australian’ on 20 March 2014.