The Age When People May Be Most Unhappy: Study
Thu, October 21, 2021

The Age When People May Be Most Unhappy: Study


A new study investigated the association between age and unhappiness. The results suggested that the peak of unhappiness among people would likely occur at the age of 49.

The association between age and unhappiness was investigated by a professor of economics at Dartmouth University. They found that at age 49 years, a person would likely experience the peak of unhappiness. This unhappiness could be correlated to several factors. Regardless, these factors likely reflected the midlife crisis. But the defined age was an average on multiple demographics examined. It might happen earlier than that. They published their findings in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.

What Makes People Unhappy?

People of ages have experienced unhappiness at least once their entire life. But there are many who experience it more often. And sometimes, unhappiness can last for years depending on the resilience of the cause. The more that cause is left undealt, the more it can strip the happiness from a person. Some are unhappy because of their job, while others are unhappy because of certain individuals in a city.

According to Statista, a German portal for statistics, the response from fellow citizens could make others happy or unhappy. In the COVID-19 Barometer survey, conducted between March 23 and 30, 2020, a total of 2,853 individuals from four countries participated. In China, 78% of respondents were satisfied with the response from fellow citizens, while 4% were dissatisfied and 18% were neutral. In Germany, 34% were satisfied, 36% were dissatisfied, and 30% were neutral. In the UK, 26% were satisfied, 45% were dissatisfied, and 28% were neutral. And in the US, 34% were satisfied 36% were dissatisfied, and 31% were neutral. The satisfaction of individuals was affected by adherence to health protocols, such as physical distancing and face mask use.

Last year, employment was a contributing factor to the unhappiness of a person. A survey by PayScale conducted between November 2017 and January 2019 highlighted the top reasons why Americans quit their jobs. Out of 38,400 respondents, the main reason why they quit their job was their desire for higher pay at 25%. It was followed by unhappiness in their current organization at 16%, their intent to work at an organization with similar values at 14%, their relocation at 11%, their current position as a part-timer at 10%, their eagerness to get a promotion at 7%, and their want of a flexible schedule at 2%. A total of 15% were accounted for other reasons.



When Will a Person Feel Unhappiness the Most?

Most people feel unhappiness at different times and almost no one in the world lives happily all the time. This is because there are many ways for a person to become unhappy. A simple set of painful words can crush happiness for a minute or two. Those same words may destroy happiness for another person for days. But one possible factor that can increase the chance of unhappiness is age, according to a recent study.

David G. Blanchflower, a professor of economics at Dartmouth University, examined the relationship between age and unhappiness. They examined the data from eight well-being files of nearly 14 million respondents. These respondents were from 168 nations from the Gallup World Poll, including 40 different countries in Europe and the US. They used 20 various individual characterizations of unhappiness. All of the characterizations could be divided into four groups to define the possible source of unhappiness.

The first group was mental health focused on anxiety, depression, and stress. The second group was feelings and social interactions like confidence and worthiness. The third group was physical health that covered pain and sleep hygiene. And lastly, the fourth group was national wellbeing that referred to the current state of a country where the respondents were.



Dr. Sebastian Ocklenburg, a biopsychology lecturer at Ruhr University, interpreted the results using the four groups in the US magazine Psychology Today. The average age when a person would experience the peak of unhappiness was 49 years, across all countries. This was determined by Blanchflower with or without controls. Throughout life, the trend of unhappiness was similar to a hill-shaped curve. It showed that babies and toddlers had the lowest unhappiness rate than other age groups. The rate of unhappiness would begin to increase after the toddler age until the age of 49, the peak age.

Surprisingly, the rate of unhappiness would decline after the age of 49. Adults aged 50 years and older were less likely to experience unhappiness. This supported that the midlife crisis could be a real phenomenon. Regardless of influential factors, the age of 49 was the prominent peak time of unhappiness in different nations. While the study supported the midlife crisis, it did not show support to the so-called quarter-life crisis.



Based on the findings, it appears that within a year, adults must survive the ultimate challenge of true happiness. For 12 months, they must discover the root cause of their unhappiness and the truth about themselves. The root cause can be of anything – from tangible to intangible matter – but whatever it is, they need to learn and resolve it. Once they resolved the root cause, they likely have identified themselves and secured a level of confidence unlike before. Though, the estimated range of the midlife crisis is between ages 45 and 65, a possible 20-year battle against oneself.

As mentioned, researchers noted that after the age of 49, the unhappiness rate declines. They offered some theories to explain it, which could be used by people. One, people might have learned something from impossible dreams. The wisdom might allow them to let go smoothly and proceed with more realistic goals. Two, people might realize that being unhappy for the longest time would be bad for their lifespan. This might make them more appreciative of what they have and live a little bit happy. And three, people might observe that many young individuals die early. This could shake things up and show them the things they should value, such as family and friends, which are often overlooked.