The study, by the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College in the US found that only the US recorded a significant gender difference with unhappiness reached a peaking around the age of 40 for women, and 50 for men. Previous research has suggested that the risk of unhappiness and depression stays relatively constant throughout life.
Researcher Professor Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick, said: "It happens to men and women, to single and married people, to rich and poor, and to those with and without children." He said the reason why middle age was a universally vulnerable time was unclear. However, he said: "One possibility is that individuals learn to adapt to their strengths and weaknesses, and in mid-life quell their infeasible aspirations.
Professor Oswald said for the average person, the dip in mental health and happiness comes on slowly, not suddenly in a single year. Only in their 50s do most people emerge from the low period. "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.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: "This study raises intriguing questions about the processes that lead to depression in mid-life, as well as indicating what a common experience it is worldwide. "We welcome any scientific contribution to our understanding of this illness, particularly if the research can aid the development of better treatments, both therapeutic and pharmaceutical."
Imagine what effect reading an article which says depression is at its worst at 44 on a 44 year old. It’s just as well I use an electric razor! Roll on March and my 45th birthday...