Is the Midlife Crisis real?

Is the Midlife Crisis real?

Is the midlife crisis real? I have little doubt that it is, but it needs to looked at in perspective. For example, looking at it in purely physical and biological terms makes no sense, particularly when we live in a culture that sees the twenties as the pinnacle of achievement from a health perspective, backed by such arbitrary factors as sexuality in all its facets – even though the media and advertising industries would have us think so with their ‘exploiting’ of this fact.

These factors, plus the apparent deterioration in random evidence, such as medical testing procedures around things like blood pressure and cholesterol levels, can get us into a cul de sac when this ‘crisis’ hits. We can become fearful of these facts and their potential consequences, and then take a medicalised position to support a return to a lost youth… often with the aid of antidepressants, blood pressure and cholesterol medication. Unfortunately this may simply maintain a chronic state of ‘midlife crisis’ by not enabling us to transit the period creatively and even spiritually; which, I would argue, is what the so-called ‘crisis’ is all about anyway.

Sure, we must attend to our physical well-being; but this must be in the light of a creative and purposeful ageing. In this respect a broader view would recognise the social, psychological and spiritual implications of this period of life, which traditions past – and elsewhere – recognised and negotiated often far better than we do with our “culture of youth”.

Maybe the article that follows points in this direction?


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.

But the Australian-led study of thousands of people in three countries also shows why some people say life begins at 40, with a steady improvement from then on.

“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.”