Men and Midlife Crisis

Men and Midlife Crisis

What is a midlife crisis?

A midlife crisis can occur when a man feels that he has reached the halfway stage in his life, and begins to question his past choices and accomplishments, causing him to become anxious and uncertain about the trajectory that he has set for his future.

Although the topic of midlife crisis is often viewed as something trivial, and is often the basis for comedy or humour, it can be an emotionally challenging experience for a large number of men.

At What Age Does a Midlife Crisis Occur?

A midlife crisis is not something that every man will have to contend with, and different men will be affected at different ages. However, it is most common for a man to go through a midlife crisis between the ages of 35 and 50 years.

Research suggests that people typically report feeling least satisfied with their life in their forties and fifties, and these years also appear to mark the life stage when levels of psychological stress are at their highest.

The age at which people are at the greatest risk of depression is thought to be forty five.

What Triggers a Midlife Crisis?

As a phenomenon, the midlife crisis was first identified by Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung, who considered the sometimes difficult transition that occurs between the first and second half of life to be a normal part of becoming a well-balanced and mature adult. However, the credit for the creation of the term ‘midlife crisis' is given to a Canadian psychologist called Elliot Jaques, who first used the phrase in 1965.

According to Jaques, a midlife crisis occurs when, halfway through his life, a man becomes acutely aware of his mortality, and believes that the time he has left is quickly running out. However, even if a man is at peace with the idea of getting older, the many external pressures that sometimes coincide with midlife can cause stress and a sense of being overwhelmed.

The NHS does not consider midlife crisis to be a medical condition, but because of its close association with depression, it is important to understand how some of the changes that occur during middle age can cause a person to become depressed.

The factors that can contribute to the development of midlife depression include:

  • Relationship problems
  • Poor health
  • Career troubles
  • Bereavement
  • Debt

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Midlife Crisis?

The things that are typically cited as tell-tale signs of a midlife crisis describe the actions of a middle aged man who is desperately trying to recapture his youth and usually involve a sports car or an affair with a younger partner. In reality, a midlife crisis often presents with the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and should not be ignored.

The Symptoms of Anxiety Can Include:

  • Constant feelings of worry
  • Constant feelings of fear
  • Need for reassurance from other people
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty in relaxing
  • Insomnia
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Heightened sense of alertness

The Symptoms of Depression Can Include:

  • Extended periods of low mood
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Feelings of helplessness and despair
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to enjoy previously pleasurable experiences
  • Inability to concentrate on everyday tasks and activities
  • Constant feelings of tiredness
  • Disrupted and unpredictable patterns of sleep

In 2013, the Crown Clinic, a medical centre that specialises in hair transplants, conducted a survey of 1,000 people to investigate the signs of a modern midlife crisis. The poll discovered that the most common age for a midlife crisis in men is 43, and identified a range of behaviours that appear to be the contemporary analogues of the stereotypical purchasing of a Harley Davidson or red Ferrari. According to the results of the study, the signs of a modern midlife crisis include the following:

  • Taking to social media to look up past love interests
  • Continued attendance at music festivals such as Glastonbury
  • Going to reunion tours of favourite 70s and 80s bands
  • Buying an expensive bicycle
  • Worry about thinning hair
  • Revisiting childhood holiday locations
  • Developing a sudden desire to play a musical instrument
  • Obsessively comparing own appearance with other people of same age
  • Worrying about not having enough money to retire
  • Realising that it might be impossible to ever pay off a mortgage

How Long Does a Midlife Crisis Last?

Because of the increase in longevity that has been observed in a large number of nations in recent years, there is expanding focus on the measurement of life-quality in modern society. According to the current evidence base, the pattern of happiness and well-being were seen throughout the existence of an individual human is a U-shaped curve.

From the beginning of adulthood, there is a gradual decline in happiness, until the lowest point is reached during the forties, which represents the onset of what is often referred to as the midlife crisis.

Then as people begin to enter into their fifties, there is a gradual increase in happiness, which peaks around the time that a person reaches their sixties.

How Can a Man Cope with a Midlife Crisis?

Certain scientists deny the concept of the midlife crisis, and some men will coast through middle age without encountering too much turbulence. For the majority, however, adjustments in perspective will have to be made, in order to cope with the idea they have already lived the largest portion of their life, and that thinning hair and aching joints signal that they are possibly past their physical peak.

Professor Paul Dolan, a behavioural scientist from the London School of Economics, says that focusing on the simple pleasures in life is the key to happiness. According to Dolan, people should find the things that they enjoy, and do them more often, instead of concentrating on the factors in their life that need to be improved.

Setting goals that are unachievable will ultimately lead to disappointment, and a person can exert a sustainable positive impact on their life by giving priority to the things that make them feel good. If a man experiences the symptoms of depression for more than a couple of weeks, they should turn to their GP for advice.

A GP will be able to make a diagnosis, and a man will have the opportunity to learn about the different options that are available for coping with depression.


1. NHS Choices, 2016. “Male midlife crisis”. URL: . [Accessed on June 10th 2016]
2. MIND. “Depression”. URL: . [Accessed on June 10th 2016]
3. NHS Choices, 2015. “Stress, anxiety and depression”. URL: . [Accessed on June 10th 2016]
4. Chang T, et al. Longitudinal Evidnence for a Midlife Nadir in Human Well-being: Results from Four Data Sets. The Economic Journal. 2015, Oct.
5. Dolan P. Happiness by design: change what you do, not how you think. New York: Hudson Street Press. 2014.