“I remember forty—a hard age. It is the age when a man discovers that he is all that he is ever going to be. Some men are rather pleased at the discovery. I suspect your brother is not.”
Perhaps this author was somewhat prescient. Today, researchers announced the results of an 80-country study measuring depression in men and women. Apparently, hitting your 40s triggers something:
For men and women the probability of depression slowly builds and then peaks when people are in their forties—a similar pattern found in 72 countries ranging from Albania to Zimbabwe, the researchers said.
About eight nations—mostly in the developing world—did not follow the U-shaped pattern for happiness levels, Oswald and his colleague David Blanchflower of Dartmouth College in the United States wrote.
“It happens to men and women, to single and married people, to rich and poor, and to those with and without children,” Oswald said. “Nobody knows why we see this consistency.”
One possibility may be that people realize they won’t achieve many of their aspirations at middle age, the researchers said. (link)
It makes a sort of morbid sense that we use age/time to determine the plausibility of our aspirations. After all, we haven’t figured out the key to individual immortality, so our time in this world is finite. But with life expectancy in the U.S. edging towards 80, I wonder why we aren’t shifting away from focusing on the amount of time to focusing on our desires.
The data (for more of my thoughts on data, see this earlier post) would seem to indicate that a high probability exists you won’t be happy in your 40s. I suggest that it’s time to prove the data wrong. The first step would require that we stop associating a particular age with an event. Heresy, I know, but if we didn’t feel like it was a race against an internal calendar, perhaps we could make better decisions about the choices we’re pursuing.
I believe the key is to reframe the aspiration so that time doesn’t become the driving factor behind the decision. Reframing requires pushing against many of society’s traditions because we’ve become entrenched with idea of timing everything in our lives. Are you ready to throw the clock and the calendar aside?