menu

Innovation

New research by British psychologists shows educated twenty and thirtysomethings most likely to be hit by pre-midlife blues.

Dan Gould
  • 5 may 2011


Powered by Guardian.co.uk
This article titled “The quarterlife crisis: young, insecure and depressed” was written by Amelia Hill, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 5th May 2011 15.55 UTC

It is supposed to be the time of opportunity and adventure, before mortgages and marriage have taken their toll. But struggling to cope with anxieties about jobs, unemployment, debt and relationships, many young adults are experiencing a “quarterlife crisis”, according to new research by British psychologists .

Bearing all the hallmarks of the midlife crisis, this phenomenon – characterised by insecurities, disappointments, loneliness and depression – is hitting twenty- and thirtysomethings shortly after they enter the “real world”, with educated professionals most likely to suffer.

“Quarterlife crises don’t happen literally a quarter of the way through your life,” said lead researcher Dr Oliver Robinson, from the University of Greenwich in London. “They occur a quarter of your way through adulthood, in the period between 25 and 35, although they cluster around 30.”

Robinson, who presented his findings at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Glasgow, worked with researchers from Birkbeck College on what he says is the first research to look at the quarterlife crisis from a “solid, empirical angle based on data rather than speculation.”

The research is backed by a survey undertaken by Gumtree.com which found 86% of the 1,100 young people questioned admitted feeling under pressure to succeed in their relationships, finances and jobs before hitting 30.

Two in five were worried about money, saying they did not earn enough, and 32% felt under pressure to marry and have children by the age of 30. Six percent were planning to emigrate, while 21% wanted a complete career change.

But Robinson also found that the quarterlife crisis – which lasts on average for two years – can be a positive experience. Such early-life crises have four phases, he said, moving from feelings of being trapped to a catalyst for change then, eventually, the building and cementing of a new life.

“The results will help reassure those who are experiencing this transition that it is a commonly experienced part of early adult life, and that a proven pattern of positive change results from it,” said Robinson.

Damian Barr, author of the book Get it Together: A Guide to Surviving Your Quarterlife Crisis, said growing numbers of 25-year-olds are experiencing pressures previously felt by those in their mid-forties.

“Plenty of people are going to say the quarterlife crisis doesn’t exist,” he said. “The truth is that our 20s are not, as they were for our parents, 10 years of tie-dye fun and quality ‘me’ time. Being twentysomething now is scary – fighting millions of other graduates for your first job, struggling to raise a mortgage deposit and finding time to juggle all your relationships.

“We have the misfortune to be catapulted into a perilous property market. We’re earning more and spending more than ever. We’re getting into debt to finance our degrees, careers and accommodation.”

He added: “The Depression Alliance estimates that a third of twentysomethings feel depressed.

“If, as we’re constantly told, the world is our oyster, it’s definitely a dodgy one. Unlike the midlife crisis, the quarterlife crisis is not widely recognised. There are no ‘experts’ to help us. We have no support apart from each other.”

Four phases of a quarterlife crisis

Phase 1, defined by feeling “locked in” to a job or relationship, or both. “It’s an illusory sense of being trapped,” said Robinson. “You can leave but you feel you can’t.”

Phase 2 is typified by a growing sense that change is possible. “This mental and physical separation from previous commitments leads to all sorts of emotional upheavals. It allows exploration of new possibilities with a closer link to interests, preferences and sense of self.

“Up until then you may be driving fast down a road you don’t want to be going down. A minority of participants described getting caught in a loop, but the majority reflected on a difficult time which was a catalyst for important positive change.”

Phase 3 is a period of rebuilding a new life.

Phase 4 is the cementing of fresh commitments that reflect the young person’s new interests, aspirations and values.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Innovation
Trending

Volvo's Self-Driving Trucks Will Soon Be Put To Work In An Underground Mine

Automotive
Automotive Yesterday

Toyota Is Using Sewage To Power Its New Electric Car

A new hydrogen-fueled vehicle is driven by what we flush away

Culture Yesterday

Catch A Concert On This Small Floating Island

A man-made archipelago in Italy is hosting music and art performances

Trending

Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Design & Architecture Yesterday

DIY Kit Lets You Build Your Own Wooden Bike, Boat Or Caravan

Woodenwidget says its detailed guides are suitable for beginners and experienced woodworkers alike

Related Expert

Eddie Rehfeldt

Innovation into Impact

Design Yesterday

Crash-Friendly Drone Made From LEGOs Is Completely Rebuildable

The clever device offers games, education and the uniquely rewarding experience of destroying your high-flying airship

Fitness / Sport Yesterday

Free Sneakers Given Out To Motivated Marathon Runners

Strava will give the shoes to athletes who run the second half of their race faster than the first

Culture Yesterday

Someone Invented A Robot Just To Serve Trays Of Beef Jerky

Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz, in partnership with Chef's Cut Real Jerky, creates an automated snack delivery system

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed september 28, 2016

Energy Expert: How American Consumers Are Taking Control Of Their Power Use

Jennifer Tuohy, green tech expert at The Home Depot, discusses green home technologies and developments for renewable technologies in US homes

PSFK Labs Yesterday

The 10 Steps To Discover, Hire, Develop Your Next Leader

PSFK's Future of Work report outlines key steps in the employee development path to empower next-gen leaders

Millennials Yesterday

Why A Social Networking Site Decided To Rebrand

Meetup, a platform that connects like-minded individuals, has taken steps to stay relevant amongst millennials

Work Yesterday

Editorial Roundtable: The People-First Workplace Should Borrow From Tradition

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX underline the old-fashioned ideas that deserve a place in the Future of Work

Op-Ed Yesterday

Digital Design Expert: Mobile First Is Dead, Think Mobile Native

Brian Cooper, chief creative officer of OLIVER Group UK, explains how some brands are still playing catch-up to new technology

Fashion Yesterday

Handbags Crafted From An Old NFL Stadium

People for Urban Progress is an up-cycling program that tackles the waste problem of big demolitions

Work Yesterday

Tech Job Site Created Just For Those Who Are Older Than 30

A new occupational job board presents a creative solution to age discrimination in the tech world

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

Europe Yesterday

Architect Turns A Giant Smile Into A Public Exhibition

The structure offers visitors a new perspective of London and creates an immersive environment that integrates structure, surface, space and light

Children Yesterday

Norwegian Kids Are Using Their Phones To Log Unsafe Street Conditions

Travel Agent is an app that gamifies the reporting of hazardous conditions to improve the safety of children's commute to school

Travel Yesterday

Google Wants To Help You Plan Your Next Trip

A new app curates vacation itineraries and organizes reservation emails to take the work out of planning a getaway

No search results found.