Middle-Aged People Tend to be the Happiest

· January 1, 2019

“Middle age” is that stage between the ages of 40 and 60. Until recently, people used to say that this stage was marked by a crisis that all middle-aged people went through. However, several studies show that this isn’t as true as many people believe. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Everything seems to indicate that middle-aged people tend to be the happiest of all.

Life expectancy is much higher than it used to be. Believe it or not, there were times when reaching the age of 50 wasn’t very likely. Today, on the other hand, most people surpass this age. All of this has given place to the new definition of the term “youth“. As of now, people get married and have children when they’re older.

“One of the many things nobody ever tells you about middle age is that it’s such a nice change from being young.”

-William Feather-

Woman drinking tea.

A reliable study

Researchers Nancy Galambos, Harvey Krahn, and Matt Johnson from the University of Alberta in Canada carried out a study on happiness in different ages.

In order to conduct this study, they formed two separate groups. People between the ages of 18 and 43 formed the first group, while the second one was formed by individuals between the ages of 23 and 37. The study considered important milestones such as the change of marital status, health-related aspects, work-related aspects, etc.

This study concluded five interesting things:

  • Most of the subjects showed that they were happier now at the age of 40 than when they were 18.
  • People who are married and have jobs tend to be happier. In addition, these individuals also tend to be healthier.
  • No evidence shows that midlife crises really exist.
  • Generally speaking, people feel happier after they reach the age of 40.
  • After the age of 30, people’s well-being tends to improve.
Woman enjoying the sunset at the beach.

The midlife crisis myth

About three decades ago, the term “midlife crisis” began to gain popularity. At one point, people did nothing but talk about it and fear it. The idea that accompanied this term was that reaching the age of 40 caused a lot of pain and suffering. Those who reached this age usually felt sad and submerged in a pool of nostalgia due to the fact that their life has gone by too fast. Consequently, middle-aged people (40-year-olds) started doing immature and childish things in order to “become young again”.

This term stemmed from a study Andrew Oswald, an economics professor at the University of Warwick, carried out. According to him, happiness has a “U” shape. Happiness reaches its peak at about the age of 20 and then again at the age of 70. People tend to feel the least happy when they’re 40.

However, many other studies (including the one from the University of Alberta) show that this isn’t true. These studies discovered that, when people reach middle age, their overall feeling of well-being grows and becomes more stable. This means that, in reality, middle-aged people begin to live their life to the fullest at this precise stage.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

-Mark Twain-

Happy man at work.

Are middle-aged people actually happier?

Both the longer life expectancy and the way the term “youth” transformed have changed the way 40-year-olds live their lives. As of now, it’s rare to see middle-aged people going through a crisis caused precisely by their age. It’s quite the opposite now, actually. This is the stage where people begin to live their lives like never before. 

When we’re teenagers, our lack of experience and bad emotional regulation can make us experience very tough times. It’s normal to make mistakes during this stage. However, it’s important to note that young people, generally speaking, should have enough strength and motivation to want to overcome the issues they experience.

Now, one thing is certain: youth doesn’t equal stability, clarity, and calmness. This explains why this is the perfect stage to make mistakes and learn from them.

Over time, our ability to analyze and think things through improves. This makes us less prone to acting irritably, irrationally, and impulsively. We end up learning to control our emotions and express them in an assertive way.

All of this balance and control make middle-aged people feel much happier than before. However, we must note that there are always exceptions. Some middle-aged people may not feel like this. But, in general, this combination of experience and vitality results in greater well-being.

“Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.”

-Ausonius-