‘Mid-life crisis’ theory challenged by University of Alberta study

Mid-life crisis theory

A recent paper published in Developmental Psychology titled – Up, Not Down: The Age Curve in Happiness from Early Adulthood to Midlife – throws new light on the concept of “mid-life crisis.” The researchers who published this paper, Nancy Galambos, Harvey Krahn, Matt Johnson, based their findings on data drawn from two longitudinal studies by University of Alberta


For the past 5 to 6 decades, the accepted belief, based on research, was the happiness in our lives falls on a U-shaped curve. Over the years, a number of studies have claimed that happiness declines for most from the early 20s to middle age (40 to 60).  This is reflected in the U-shaped curve where the low point of the curve is attributed to “mid-life crisis”. Not surprisingly, “mid-life crisis” has become an accepted phenomenon. So much so, it’s grist for the mill for sitcoms and advertising all over the world. The question is, is there any truth in “mid-life crisis?”

That question has been answered in the negative by Galambos, Krahn, Johnson and their team.
The data, which the team used for their paper, contradicts the previous cross-sectional studies don on determining one’s happiness over a life span. The new data clearly indicates that happiness does not stall in midlife. On the contrary, the trajectory of happiness is on an upward curve starting from the late teens and early twenties. According to Galambos and Krahn, this current study is far more reliable than the previous research. Unlike the previous cross-sectional research, where the data came from different individuals. In the current study, the happiness quotient is measured in the same individuals over time.

As part of the new study, the team followed two sets of participants. The first set of participants was Canadian high school seniors between the ages of 18 years and 43 years. The second set of participants comprised of university seniors from ages 23-37. In both the groups the researchers noted that happiness increased into the 30s, with a slight downturn by age 43 in the high school sample.

After taking into account the variations in participants’ lives, such as changes in marital status and employment, both the groups of participants showed a general rise in happiness after high school and university.

According to the fist author of the study Prof. Nancy Galambos, the information gleaned from the study is crucial because happiness is important. The team believes that happiness plays a huge role in the life span and overall well-being. They are of the opinion that the happier a person the easier their life trajectory. And they are less of a burden on the health system, and society.


Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.


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