Closer to home, Sinead O’Carroll, 46, is cutting a rather sexy strip in Dancing With The Stars, rather than fending off Yewande Biala, 24, and Grainne Gallanagh, 25. However, according to new research, these forty-something should be reaching the lowest point of midlife misery. A new study has shed light on the “curve of happiness,” which is U-shaped.
Dartmouth College professor David Blanchflower studied data in 132 countries to measure the relationship between well-being and age. Those from developed nations reached their lowest emotional level at 47.2
It is believed that several variables are at stake in the current social climate. Many people of this age are members of the ‘sandwich’ generation, taking care of both young families and older family members with health problems.
Dublin Sarah Power (46) is taking care of her two parents and refers to the ‘panini generation’: “With old parents pressing one side and really young families pressing the other, people are being expelled from them,” she says . “It’s incredibly interesting how many people my age are in a similar situation.”
A year ago, Power was a manager of a large IT organization, but the responsibility of caring for parents, raising children and maintaining a demanding job soon took its toll. Fortunately, the company has a caregiver policy, which allows you to take a break in your career and become a full-time caregiver for your mother, who has Alzheimer’s.
“I thought I would have it all at the age of 40,” he admits. “The children would be a little older and would not be as needy as when they were very young children, and they could make their own breakfast and go to bed. We would be in the middle of the mortgage and was anxious to have some great vacation: the kind of vacation that you postpone when you have small children and large mortgage payments. I thought that by then I would be sailing, but that is the point in life when things started going downhill. “
Birr-based psychotherapist Stella O’Malley (49) sees many people over 40 in her clinic, and has also identified other factors that could contribute to ‘middle-aged misery’.
“I think that all your decisions made in your 20s or 30s ‘enter’ as such, whether you have decided to stay at home or work,” he observes. “You can always change certain decisions at age 20 and 30, but at the end of the 40s it is when you begin to think that this is where you will live.”
“For the sandwich generation, there are women who go through menopause, who live with children who often go through a hormonal adolescence,” he adds. “It’s an extraordinarily bad combination and neither makes real sense of the other.”
Professionally, many forty-odd people feel they are approaching a stage where they might be able to take their foot off the pedal for a while after struggling for decades. However, many find that this time never materializes. Worse, they need to keep up with ambitious and technologically skilled young people in the workplace.
“You have spent all this effort trying to advance in the professional career and after that, you are desperately trying to stay there,” says O’Malley. “You are also likely to start thinking, ‘Why am I really doing this job?’ At 30, the career ladder seemed so important to move on, but as Fay Weldon says, most people have jobs. , no career. It can be a very deep existential question to ask yourself. “
For many women in their forties, even those who reach perimenopause or menopause, there may be an undeniable feeling of energy, attractiveness and conventional appeal that fades.
“I’ve noticed it myself,” O’Malley smiles. “I’ve always had confidence in myself, but at the last moment I realized that maybe I’m not as attractive to men as I was before, which is a bit surprising. But then, ‘I feel comfortable with this because I had my day in the sun and I certainly enjoyed it. I think if you did not enjoy your youth, you are more likely to feel depressed about wasting your time.
“At this point in life, the general perception can often be ‘is this?’ although, it doesn’t have to be the reality. “
On this last point, the novelist Carmel Harrington (49) strongly agrees. He began writing at age 40 and began having the first of his children at 39.
“I think it [the research findings] “It can’t be further from the truth,” she says. “Personally and professionally, everything has come together for me since I turned 40, and I have only improved. I am at peace with who I am and where I want to go, where I want to be and how I want to get there. I had many more doubts about myself in my 20 and 30. And, of course, I am firmly convinced that you are never too old to pursue your dream. “
Carmel, whose next novel My Pear-Shaped Life opens in April, adds: “I look very different now than 10 or 20 years ago and, of course, I would rather have the figure I had years ago, but you can’t give birth to Two children and not end up with a different body shape.
“Sometimes it can be difficult for women to accept chin hair and the joy that perimenopause brings, but I quite agree with everything. What’s the point of fighting them? I’ve had family members who have faced battles against cancer and, fortunately, they have come from the other side, but that kind of situation really causes a change in mentality. “
Similarly, Mitch Bohan, who directs the Infinity Hot Yoga study in Maynooth, believes that certain life experiences have taught him that reaching middle age is a privilege.
A former Army officer, Bohan’s good friend, Derek, died in action while doing his duty, at 33. It gave him a completely new perspective on life.
“Derek would be 49 years old, the same age as me now, and he really taught me that staying on the planet is a gift,” he explains.
At 45, Bohan decided on an important career axis: he left the army he had joined at 17 and after returning to education, decided to open his own business. With the study of yoga as a resounding success, he says he could not be happier.
“Happiness is a state of mind and, by definition, it is something individual,” he observes. “If someone had a strict timeline in their head about being in a certain place at age 25 or 35, the chances of that working are minimal. If you measure your success with this artificial timeline, you will always feel unhappy “.
“I don’t care what people think of me, but I’ve been like that since I was 21,” Bohan smiles. “You become a little more aware of your emotional intelligence, but that is because you are on the planet a little more.”
The good news is that, according to Blanchflower’s research, people experience an increase in happiness after this supposed nadir in the middle of life.
“I have seen a lot of research that shows that we are much happier in our 50s and 60s,” says O’Malley. “We care less what people think as we accept more of the bars we are in. We are not trying to get to art exhibitions and things like that because we believe that is what we should be enjoying, we just go out and do what we do”. We really enjoyed. Freeing yourself from these expectations seems to be the key to happiness. “