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44 - the most depressing age of the lot

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Humans are pre-programmed to hit the depths of misery at the age of 44, researchers have found.

That is the age at which the probability of depression peaks for both men and women, researchers from the University of Warwick have found. That particular institution’s closest town is Coventry, suggesting they do indeed know what they’re talking about.

Happiness levels tended to peak at around 20, they found, before steadily dipping as people reached their mid-40s. They then started creeping back up again, with people generally climbing out of the hole in their 50s.

If you’re currently groaning under the weight of a mortgage, stalled career, school runs and wondering what your teenagers are up to at this exact moment, you’ll be glad to know that this has nothing to do with your happiness levels.

The same slump into a mid-40s trough applies across geographies and cultures, with the academics observing the same pattern across one million people in the UK and across 71 other countries.

It also applies to the unmarried, rich and poor and those without children. So those Buddhist monks and Carmelite nuns can all wipe the beatific smiles off their faces – we now know they’re faking.

Despite identifying the pattern, the researchers are at a loss to definitively explain it.

Professor Andrew Oswald said, “It looks like something that happens deep inside people.”

“But encouragingly, by the time you are 70, if you are still physically fit then on average you are as happy and mentally healthy as a 20 year old. Perhaps realising that such feelings are completely normal in midlife might even help individuals survive this phase better."

Possibly. Though we find it more comforting to think that all the worry warts and belly-achers will have fallen by the wayside by the time we hit 70, meaning we'll be able to enjoy the pick of the park benches and library seats in peace. ®

Bootnote

Eagle-eyed readers might also spot that 44 is also the international dialling code for the UK, as well a bus route that runs between those two well-known centres of despair, Tooting and Victoria Station.

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