Anxiety levels peak among people aged 40-60, new statistics show, proving there might be more to the much-referenced ‘midlife crisis’ than meets the eye.
A new government study of wellbeing in the UK found that, generally speaking, people are experiencing relatively high levels of life satisfaction and happiness – with those aged 16-19 and 65-79 experiencing the highest ratings.
People aged between 45 and 54, however, reported low average ratings of life satisfaction and happiness, which coincided with a sharp rise in anxiety levels.
Mental health experts and doctors have since issued advice on how to battle anxiety during this time, when divorce, bereavement and money troubles often come into play.
The Office Of National Statistics looked at personal wellbeing ratings between 2012 and 2015, and created average scores for areas including life satisfaction, happiness, worthwhile and anxiety.
It showed that between the ages of 40 and 60 years old, anxiety levels peak with people aged 50-54 suffering the most.
These levels then drop after the age of 60, coinciding with an increase in life satisfaction and happiness.
Dr Helen Webberley is the dedicated GP for Oxford Online Pharmacy. She says that anxiety issues are something she comes across more and more with middle-aged patients.
“We tend to see more cases in women and I agree, it seems to peak in the forties and fifties,” she explained.
“There may be various reasons for this but the typical scenario I see is patients with the burden of one or more jobs, the demands of children and running a home, and then the added worry and stress of caring for elderly relatives.
“In the past there may have been a nanny, cook, house-keeper and maid. Now the two adults in the home have to do it all. Expectations are high from employers, children and relatives – and life is hard.
“Add to this financial concerns and the pressure mounts leading to depressionand anxiety.”
Rachel Boyd, information manager for mental health charity Mind, said that dealing with bereavement or divorce can also add to this.
So why do these feelings of anxiety then decrease after the age of 60?
Boyd said: “It is possible that from the age of 60 onwards people are more likely to retire, relieving them of the pressures of work.
“It is also likely that people may become more accepting of what they have and less demanding of themselves.”
For those experiencing high and almost unbearable levels of anxiety, as opposed to feeling generally anxious about life, Boyd has some advice.
“While most people can relate to the idea of feeling tense in the lead up to a stressful event like a job interview or moving house, mental health problems like anxiety and depression, have a much bigger impact on your life and can even stop you being able to do things you used to do,” she explained.
“Anxiety as a mental health problem is not the same as being ‘a bit shy’ and it’s important to seek help as soon as possible if you feel like your anxiety is interfering with your ability to do the things you normally would.”