Life Is Most Miserable Aged 47, Study Finds

by : Lucy Connolly on : 14 Jan 2020 09:53
Life Is Most Miserable Aged 47, Study FindsLife Is Most Miserable Aged 47, Study FindsNBC Universal Television/Warner Bros. Television

You might be sitting there scrolling through your phone at the grand old age of 25 in a right grump – you didn’t get that job you wanted, you can’t afford to go on holiday, your mates all have their sh*t together and you don’t…


Hey, at least things can only get better. Right? Wrong, because apparently they’ll get a whole lot worse when you reach middle age – more specifically, when you reach the age of 47. Sorry.

Dartmouth College’s professor David Blanchflower was able to pinpoint the exact moment people feel the most miserable by drawing comparisons across 132 countries, with his findings suggesting the mid-life crisis is more real than you might think.

greyscale portrait of man in crisisgreyscale portrait of man in crisisPixabay

It’s not all downhill from here though, as things will eventually get better; according to the study, every country has a ‘happiness curve’, which is U-shaped over lifetime.


In other words, people’s happiness goes up and down over time, and is at its lowest at 47.2 years old in developed countries. In nations that are still developing, it happens only a little later at 48.2 years old.

The economic study, distributed yesterday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, used data from 95 developing and 37 developed nations to determine the connection to well-being and age.

Professor Blanchflower wrote in the study, as per the New York Post:

Unhappiness is hill-shaped in age. The curve’s trajectory holds true in countries where the median wage is high and where it is not and where people tend to live longer and where they don’t.


The parameters for ‘unhappiness’ used in the study included: feelings of despair, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, strain, depression; bad nerves; phobias; panic; and being downhearted.

Also included were: having restless sleep; losing confidence in oneself; not being able to overcome difficulties; being under strain; feeling a failure; feeling left out; feeling tense; and thinking of yourself as a worthless person.

Which, y’know, is quite a lot of unhappiness by anyone’s standards.


The research is extremely relevant at a time when there is mounting awareness of the importance of safeguarding mental health, with the study recognising society as a whole also had an effect on well-being – particularly influenced by education, marital status and employment status.

woman holding head in handswoman holding head in handsPixabay

Professor Blanchflower added that the rise of globalisation and the financial crisis are also partly to blame for the dreaded mid-life crisis.

Phew. And here I was thinking the quarter-life crisis was bad…

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Life, happiness, Midlife Crisis, Quarter Life Crisis, Research, Science


National Bureau of Economic Research and 1 other
  1. National Bureau of Economic Research

    Is Happiness U-shaped Everywhere? Age and Subjective Well-being in 132 Countries

  2. New York Post

    This is when middle age really starts to suck: study