As the world celebrates UN International Day of Happiness, a new study of tracking thousands of people in three countries over multiple decades finds happiness levels dip in a person's forties.
By
Lin Taylor with AAP

20 Mar 2014 - 11:24 AM  UPDATED 20 Mar 2014 - 7:31 PM

The mid-life crisis is real, according to an Australian-led study of thousands of people in three countries.

Social economists from the University of Melbourne have found that happiness levels is the lowest in people aged 40 to 42.

"Human happiness hits the lowest point around the ages of 40 to 42," says Dr Cheng, who worked with colleagues from the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics.

"The jury's now in. People really do experience mid-life crises."

The study, which looks at decades of data from tens of thousands of people in Australia, Germany and Britain, has been published by the German-based Institute for the Study of Labour.

"What is interesting is the consistency of the results in all of the three countries we examined. Human happiness hits the lowest point around the ages of 40 to 42”, Dr Cheng said.

“We looked at the well-being of 'Mr Jones' at age 35, 45, 55, and so on. This is important as the U-shape finding therefore does not arise from variations across different people, but rather within individuals,” Dr Cheng adds.

Read: Full study

Why do people go through mid-life crises?

As the world celebrates UN International Day of Happiness, psychologist Dr Timothy Sharp from the Happiness Institute says we shouldn't be disheartened by Dr Cheng's research. 

“There have been other studies that looked at a similar question and found slightly different results. So it’s not necessarily set in concrete.”

However, he admits that many studies have shown we do experience a slump around our forties.

“The main explanation is that, at that age, people get to a stage in their life where they’ve got all their foundation set. For most people, they’ve completed their education, they’re reasonable established in their job, they’ve got a family.

“People then start to ask the bigger questions: Who am I? What am I doing? Am I doing what I thought I’d be doing?” he says, “And for a lot of people, that answer is ‘no’, and that’s when the slump can come in.”

Full interview: Dr Timothy Sharp speaks to World News reporter Lin Taylor

Boosting happiness levels

The good news is, says Dr Sharp, there are simple things we can do to boost happiness and to avoid the proverbial mid-life crisis.

Dr Sharp recommends that we:

  • Clarify our life purpose, values and life goals. “That’s going to mean different things to different people. But if we don’t know that, we tend to drift through life and are reactive rather than proactive.”
  • Keep healthy and exercise. “It’s a potent anti-depressant, stress buster and a powerful mood enhancer.”
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Foster an optimistic attitude. “We can practice looking for the good in the world and that goes towards the practice of appreciation and gratitude. Happy people focus on what they have and less on what they don’t have.”
  • Build meaningful relationships. “Happiness isn’t a solo sport. It’s very much connecting with others and fostering connectiveness and friendships.”

What makes you happy? Tell us about it in the comments below or send us your tweetpics @sbsnews.

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