Life How to Be Happy at Every Age

How to Be Happy at Every Age


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I turned 40 last May, and I’m apparently about to tumble into years of despair. Because, according to friends and colleagues who hit that milestone a few years before I did (not to mention researchers), my “midlife crisis” is right around the corner. But I don’t buy it. Sure, I need at least an hour of meditation with one sock on, one sock off (no joke) and 1.5 (no more, no less) cups of Sleepytime tea to fall asleep, but that’s hardly what I’d call a crisis.


Jonathan Rauch, award-winning journalist and author of The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50 also rejects the idea of a midlife crisis, a term coined back in 1965 by psychologist Elliott Jaques. He prefers to call it a slump or, on perhaps less optimistic days, a “constant drizzle of disappointment.” Still pretty bleak sounding if you ask me.

Multiple studies of adults in countries around the world show a U shape on the happiness scale as we age. In fact, according to Rauch, “it turns up so frequently and in so many places that many happiness researchers take it for granted.” The U shape suggests that people feel good in their 20s, then get a bit more miserable in their 30s—until everything bottoms out in the fifth decade. In fact, according to a new study by Dartmouth professor David Blanchflower that examined trends in 132 countries, life’s “peak time for misery” happens around age 47. Ouch. Maybe that’s why my friends would rather say they’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of their 20th birthday than proudly own the Big 4-0.

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