Midlife crisis is REAL. Study finds that misery maxes out at 47…

Posted on January 17th, 2020

An article came out this week written by Natalie Rahhal stating that a new study on international happiness found that people in developed nations (132 countries) are most miserable at age 47.2!!

According to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NERB), this middle age is when people feel least satisfied with their lives, and it doesn’t matter where they are, what they are doing for a living or how their overall health is. 

Here are some excerpts from her article:-

“In nations that are still developing, it happens only a little later: 48.2. 

Happiness falls to its lowest point for Americans - as well as people in other developed nations, like the UK - at age 47, as a a graph from a new study shows
Happiness falls to its lowest point at age 47, as a a graph from a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows 

Professor David Blanchflower, an economics professor at Dartmouth College, compiled a massive dataset and found that although trajectories varied and looked somewhat different from nation-to-nation, the basic gist was the same. 

For the US, measured by the General Social Survey from 1972 to 2018, once controls are introduced, happiness goes into a veritable free fall from the optimism of an Americans’s 18th year of life and first of adulthood on into middle age. 

It’s not exactly ‘thirty, flirty and thriving,’ but the plummeting happiness quotient does slow its downward roll a little around age 30, before bottoming out in the late 40s for the US. 

For his part, Blanchflower doesn’t offer a a lot of explanation in his latest paper, but does heartily defend that it’s solid evidence that ‘the happiness curve is found in 32 countries. No myth’ (the final words of his paper’s conclusions, to which he’s devoted an entire page). 

Others akcnowledge that science hasn’t quite worked out why, but offer some compelling context and hypotheses. 

Journalist Jonathan Rauch wrote a book on The Happiness Curve, discussing the same 40s slump, noting that orangutans and chimpanzees also hit a midlife slump. 

Rauch also suggests that this is a time of transition – and we shouldn’t necessarily think of it as a crisis point. 

‘The best conjecture is that it is because of a change in our values and our brains,’ he says. 

‘It seems like we start out wired for social competition, we’re ambitious, but our ambition is a trickster. 

‘It is disappointing because it never lets you feel satisfied and by midlife we feel disappointed.’

Brain shrinkage also starts in the 30s and 40s, and accelerates in our 60s. 

The sex hormones testosterone (for men) and estrogen (for women) also start declining as early as in the 30s, and the shift may become more noticeable in the 40s. 

But, there’s hope. 

With time, happiness perks back up again, according to the new working paper. 

In fact, happiness climbs back to heights seen only in our 20s once more in our 70s. 

So no matter where you live, or how dark the middle ages seem, hold on, the happiness curve is everywhere,’ writes Blanchflower. “

Damn. Midlife crisis is seriously real people. The reality is that midlife crisis has more to do with our resignation over our lives and ability to generate happiness than anything else.

Happiness is an elusive concept for some of us and  according to Dr. Daniel Gilbert who wrote the book “Stumbling on Happiness”, we have a certain “set point” in happiness. Meaning, we usually get happy with whatever we have at the time. The best predictor of human happiness, however, is in the human relationships that we foster and enjoy with family, friends, and loved ones. Getting support is significantly more important than achieving money and even health. So, regardless of how much money or lack of money one can spend on a vacation, for example, everyone derives the same relative level of happiness from the vacation that they end up taking. Dr. Gilbert illustrated this by showing the results of the 1978 study by Brickman, Coates, and Janoff-Bulman on lottery winners and paraplegics. After a year of losing the use of their legs and a year after winning the lotto, lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy with their lives. In fact, both groups were equally happy — which one would think is completely counter-intuitive.

Generally speaking, we have a “happiness setpoint” that can only be raised slightly through leveraging support and relationships. 

The Drivers of Happiness include these factors:-

Drivers of Happiness

Part of helping clients solve a midlife crisis is about resetting the Happiness Factors to areas which matter more than people think…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

← Back to Blog