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The mid-life crisis has never been so acute. Nor underestimated

The midlife crisis is a phenomenon as important as it is little recognized.

The midlife crisis is a phenomenon as important as it is little recognized.

©Loic VENANCE / AFP

Depression and malaise

Researchers and academics conducted a study on the midlife crisis. Alcohol addiction, sleep problems, suicidal tendencies and signs of depression emerge at this time of life.

Atlantico: The midlife crisis seems to be a phenomenon as important as it is little recognized. According to your analysis, what are the elements that characterize this crisis?

Andrew Oswald: In their late 40s, the average person becomes prone to depression, even suicidal feelings, and other extreme signs of stress. Some individuals escape these feelings, others experience them to a truly dangerous point. Our work plots the average effect, you might say.

How is this crisis manifesting in people’s lives?

As described above. These are the signs. I hope people going through them can take comfort in knowing that it’s normal, in fact, and that it will eventually subside as people reach their 50s and beyond.

What are the origins of the midlife crisis?

Scientifically, we are not sure. Our work describes the phenomenon statistically. We identify the model. No scientist is currently sure why this pattern is present in the data. In our work, we take into account a whole range of life influences, such as the consequences of a mid-life divorce, children growing up, and so on. But the midlife crisis hits even people who don’t have such experiences. It is a fascinating and important mystery.

Is there a link between socio-economic characteristics and the midlife crisis?

Not really – therein lies the conundrum. One of the most remarkable facts is that people tend to be wealthier in their late 40s and early 50s. It is therefore a paradox that they feel miserable.

What would be the solutions to end the midlife crisis?

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What if the midlife crisis was programmed in our genes (and therefore, how to respond to it)?

There are no known solutions. I hope our work will help people see that this is something that happens to a large number of individuals and is therefore normal, you might say. I also hope that anyone who hears about this research will keep an eye out for their friends at the end of life. It is a sad reality that many people take their own lives in their late 40s and early 50s.

Through your data and the literature, are there signs of an intensification of the phenomenon from one generation to another? In intensity or in number?

No. The phenomenon seems to be stable and continuous.

You say that “the seriousness of this societal problem has not been grasped by policy makers in rich countries”. What societal problem does it create?

There are a large number of suicides and extreme depression among middle-aged people.

How could the authorities handle things and start tackling this midlife crisis more effectively?

By making the model known to people approaching middle age and by informing doctors and psychiatrists.

Read also

Midlife crisis: why are we so afraid of aging (and how can we better accept it)?

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