Middle Age Blues

  (03 February 08)
  by Greg Spearritt

A new international study suggests middle age is the time of least happiness: if you reach 70 in reasonable nick, chances are you'll be as happy as an average 20-year-old. (I can't wait!)

If (and it's a big 'if') this is true, how could we account for it? Perhaps, as the researchers suggest, it's that people realise in their 40s that they simply won't achieve their dreams.

I wonder whether the issue of certainty might also be involved. In our youth, many of us see things in black-and-white terms; we have a confidence that our beliefs (religious or political) are correct. In middle age we have more data and experience to draw on, and we become confused and uncertain. Old age brings a measure of acceptance: the ability to live with uncertainty and to sort the (fleeting) gold from the dross. It's commonly called 'wisdom'.

A fairy story, or is there something to it?

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