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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In Your 40s? You'll Find This Depressing

If your life just isn't as happy as it was when you were younger, you're not imagining things. New research from Warwick University in Britain and Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire has concluded that depression is most common among men and women in middle age, specifically their 40s.

Reuters reports that the American and British team who conducted the study, analyzed data on depression, anxiety levels and general mental health for 2 million people in 80 countries and found that human happiness typically follows a U-shaped curve. There is much happiness when we're young, but life turns more difficult in middle age and then the joys of youth rebound in our older years. Call it the roller coaster of happiness. This defies previous research that has shown the sense of psychological well-being typically remains flat throughout life. "In a remarkably regular way throughout the world people slide down a U-shaped level of happiness and mental health throughout their lives," study co-leader Andrew Oswald of Warwick University told Reuters.

Specifically, the team found that the probability of depression builds slowly and then peaks for both men and women when they reach their 40s. This was true in 72 of the 80 countries, from Albania to Zimbabwe, the researchers said. "It happens to men and women, to single and married people, to rich and poor and to those with and without children," Oswald told Reuters. "Nobody knows why we see this consistency." People emerge from the low period once they hit their 50s. This trend was not followed in eight nations, most of which were in the developing world.

Why? Oswald and his colleague, David Blanchflower of Dartmouth, speculate that when people hit their 40s, they realize they won't achieve many of their life goals. There is good news! If we make it until age 70 and are still physically fit, we tend to be as happy and mentally healthy as a 20-year-old. The study findings were published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

source: Netscape.com

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