They used to say that life begins at 40 but if some recent research is correct then maybe we should say that being unhappy begins at 40.
Researchers from the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College (US) used data on 2 million people, from 80 nations, to analyse happiness levels over life. They found an extraordinarily consistent international pattern in depression and happiness levels which suggests that most of us are miserable in middle age.
The research shows that happiness levels follow a U shaped curve. We tend to have higher happiness higher towards the start and end of our lives. In middle age we tend to be at our most miserable. Previous studies had tended tp show that psychological was relatively flat and consistent as people aged.
The UK sample of 1 million people showed that for both men and women the probability of depression peaked at about 44 years of age. In the US the patterm was a little different with unhappiness reaching a peak at around 40 for women and 50 for men.
The same life pattern of happiness unhappiness and happiness was found across the following countries: Albania; Argentina; Australia; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia; Brazil; Brunei; Bulgaria; Cambodia; Canada; Chile; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Honduras; Hungary; Iceland; Iraq; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Kyrgyzstan; Laos; Latvia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia; Malta; Mexico; Myanmar; Netherlands; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Norway; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Puerto Rico; Romania; Russia; Serbia; Singapore; Slovakia; South Africa; South Korea; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Tanzania; Turkey; United Kingdom; Ukraine; Uruguay; USA; Uzbekistan; and Zimbabwe.
Signs of this mid-life depression were found in people of all situations whether there were young children in the house, or there was divorce, and irrespective of jobs or income.
It seems that it is in their 50s that most people emerge from this low period. By the time they are 70, if physically fit, then on average people are as happy and mentally healthy as a 20 year old.