Why Do People Get Depressed in Middle Age?


According to psychologist Orville Gilbert Brim, middle age is the least studied phase of human development. So much research is given over to every other life phase, although there are signs this is changing. Still, it doesn't get a lot of scientific attention, perhaps because many of those researchers are circling middle age.

Middle age does, however, get more than its share of ridicule. A man in the midst of a midlife crisis is widely regarded as pathetic and sad, and he is on the receiving end of neither sympathy nor empathy. But men are not alone in undergoing midlife crises; they happen in women as well.

Young or Old?

Psychologist Daniel J. Levinson wrote that middle age is an uncertain place in human development where "one is no longer young and yet not quite old." Because of this, it becomes a time when men and women begin to reexamine their lives—the choices they have made, the dreams they had and the dreams they still have. To many, middle age is perceived as being the last opportunity they have to make the kinds of profound changes in their lives that they believe can carry them into old age—and to make them while they're still 'young enough' to do so.

The Unhappiness of Middle Age

Recent studies have indicated that middle age tends to be the unhappiest time in the life of an individual. That doesn't mean it transcends into clinical depression; it can simply be an unhappy time as a person comes to terms with his or her life in one manner or another—whether that person makes drastic changes to his or her life or concludes that he or she is content with choices made. Neither does the unhappiness of middle age necessarily require mental health treatment.

The crux for many is to get through middle age without overturning the lives they have put so many years into creating. Many people see middle age for what it appears to be--the half-way point of their lives, when half of their lives is over and it's all downhill from there. But in reality, once a person passes through middle age, studies indicate that his or her level of happiness continues to rise as he or she gets older, and not, as many suspect, the other way around.


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