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Think you’re unhappy now? Just wait for 47, study says

- January 16, 2020 2 MIN READ

This just in: peak misery hits at 47 years of age. Uplifting thought for a Thursday, don’t you think? Although I guess that depends where you fall on the spectrum of life.

Me, I’m 40. So any problems I think I have now are likely just a warm up for 7 years into the future when I really have something to complain about. 

This tidy little fact comes via a study from David Blanchflower, a Dartmouth College Professor and ex Bank of England policy maker. 

He analyzed data for about 500,000 people from 132 countries before coming to this conclusion. 

The next question of course is why – what’s so bad about 47?

According to Claire Kimble of The Squiz podcast (where I first heard about the research) our misery is likely coming to terms with the fact that we aren’t going to be president of the world, fly to the moon, be rolling in money etc, etc. 

It could also have a lot to do with work. 

Arthur Brooks is a social scientist and professor at Harvard University who told Jessi Hempel on a recent Hello Monday podcast episode that we hit ‘professional decline’ in our 30’s and 40’s. 

He calls it our “natural cadence of abilities’’. 

Arthur says our fluid intelligence (being ‘quick’ to analyze and think of new ideas) naturally starts to slow down in our 30’s and 40’s. 

“So we can work harder and harder but are new ideas won’t seem as sharp as they did a decade ago,” he says. 

But now for the good news: our middle decades come with what Arthur calls “crystallized intelligence” (AKA wisdom) that only increases as they years go on. 

It’s what we do with this newfound wisdom that – at least according to Arthur –  determines how happy we are. 

“I am a 55 year-old man,” Arthur told Jessi Hempel. “And most of my friends around the same age are freaking out. They are highly accomplished people who have started to notice that certain skills aren’t what they once were. And they can’t understand themselves in the absence of their skills.” 

Arthur says for people stuck in management roles there are two choices: “You can leave before you’re ready, or leave on someone else’s terms.” 

Everyone else should fully embrace the idea of self-discovery: 

“If you want to be fully alive, your life is your enterprise. And the most interesting part of this is you. And you have to reinvent yourself.”