Is the Midlife Crisis a Myth?
You know the image – silver-haired men picking up their much younger trophy girlfriends in bright red sports cars.
But this notion that people experience a midlife crisis that drives them to relive their youth, may be more illusion than truth, according to a study published in the journal Developmental Psychology.
The research from the University of Alberta actually concludes that happiness tends to increase with age, thanks to better health, job security, and marital bliss. Happiness doesn’t follow a U-shaped curve, the researchers contend, but rather continues to slope upward, even through midlife.
Sociology professor Harvey Krahn noted, “If you want to see how people change as they get older, you have to measure the same individuals over time.” Previous studies have only measured participants’ happiness at the time they were being observed.
So the researchers followed 1,500 Canadians, split into two groups: high school seniors who were followed for 25 years until age 43, and university seniors who were followed for 14 years until age 37. The goal of the study was to measure individual happiness over time, so participants were asked the same question at different ages: “How happy are you with your life?” Other questions focused on the state of participants’ health and whether they were married or unemployed, among others.
Happiness levels among both groups increased well into their 30s. Overall, participants were happier in their early 40s than they were at age 18 – although the high school group started to experience a slight drop around age 43.
The research team’s theory is that happiness increases from a person’s adolescence to midlife, because some young adults have difficulty finding work and getting their life on track. But many of these issues tend to be resolved by middle age. Also, as people age, they achieve certain life milestones–better health, job security, and marriage.
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