Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

Middle Age a Global Bummer

Across The Globe, People Are Happier Before, After Middle Age, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 29, 2008 -- If life is a journey, happiness hits a speed bump in middle age for people worldwide, a new study shows.

But on the bright side, emotional well-being perks up again with age, according to the report.

Those findings come from more than 204,000 people in 72 countries. They rated their happiness or life satisfaction.

Around the world, from Austria to Zimbabwe, happiness ratings were higher before and after middle age. Picture a U-shaped curve, with middle age down in the valley of the U.

Getting Back to Happiness

U.S. men were almost 53 years old when they emerged from their midlife blues; U.S. women shifted back toward happiness earlier, when they were about 39 years old.

Those ages varied somewhat around the world, with the 40s as the turning point for men and women in Europe and developing countries.

The findings are based on adults of all ages. But participants weren't followed over time; the study was a snapshot of worldwide well-being.

Marriage, income, and education didn't explain the results. The impact of health on happiness wasn't part of the study.

The report comes from two economics professors: David Blanchflower, PhD, of Dartmouth College and Andrew Oswald, DPhil, of England's University of Warwick.

Why the Midlife Downturn?

The study doesn't show why happiness dips in midlife and picks back up again later. But the researchers have three theories:

  • People adapt to their strengths and weakness, ditching unrealistic expectations during middle age.
  • Cheerful people may live longer, making for more happiness later in life.
  • In middle age, a person may look around at others who have had a hard time and start to appreciate their own lives more.

Of course, the data paint a very broad picture. The findings don't mean that middle age is miserable for everyone.

The study is due to appear in an upcoming edition of Social Science & Medicine, according to a University of Warwick news release.

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
Take your medication
Hand appearing to hold the sun
Hungover man
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Woman worn out on couch
Happy and sad faces
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
laughing family