A new report reveals the impact of the mid-life crisis on the health and wellness of today’s workers and managers—a health threat easily overlooked by companies, especially in affluent countries.
Often treated as a joke or as a facetious explanation for unexpected behavior, the mid-life crisis is in fact real, according to a detailed report from a global team of researchers, and it is impacting the health and wellness of employees and business leaders in the most affluent countries.
The research team reviewed numerous statistics relating to employee health and wellness in wealthy nations, including the U.S. and Canada, the U.K. and other Western European countries, and Australia. Among the health and wellness issues studied were:
Analysis of these statistics, based on a variety of data sources covering in total 500,000 individuals, revealed a hill-shaped pattern that reflected the following: Incidents of the issues cited above increased steadily from the age of 15, peaked and plateaued around the ages of 45 to 55 or 60, and then plunged to their lowest lifetime levels at 75 and older. In analysing the data, the researchers controlled for factors such as gender, educational level, marital status, number of children, type of housing, and employment status that might offer other explanations for these results, such as marriage or childcare stress. The only consistent explanation that emerged throughout the data, however, was age. The stark conclusion: The mid-crisis is real and can be debilitating and even fatal.
The challenge for companies and organizations in wealthy countries is to recognize the threat among individuals who might not be considered susceptible to physical and mental health-and-wellness issues. After all, mid-life crises affect professionals who are typically close to their peak earnings, are not dealing with illness or the physical challenges of old age, reside in safe countries and communities, and live in the most prosperous nations of the world’s most prosperous era.
Companies and organizations today recognize the impact of employee health and wellness on employee engagement and performance, and, subsequently, on company results. The pandemic further reinforced the growing belief among company leaders and their employees that companies must take an active role in the health and wellness of every employee.
Even with the best intentions, however, corporate HR and health and wellness functions may overlook the impact of mid-life crises on the physical and, perhaps to a greater extent, mental health of their employees and leaders. Awareness and vigilance are essential to ensure that individuals within your organization who might seem to be the least at risk are, in fact, battling issues that can greatly undermine their performance and well-being in the workplace.
Osea Giuntella’s profile at University of Pittsburgh
Sally McManus’ profile at City, University of London
Redzo Mujcic’s profile at University of Warwick
Andrew J. Oswald’s profile at University of Warwick
Nattavudh Powdthavee’s LinkedIn profile
Ahmed Tohamy’s profile at University of Oxford
The Midlife Crisis. Osea Giuntella, Sally McManus, Redzo Mujcic, Andrew J. Oswald, Nattavudh Powdthavee, and Ahmed Tohamy. NBER Working Paper No. 30442 (September 2022).
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