Why the 'midlife crisis' is a myth

While many report feelings of life dissatisfaction as they grow older, there's little evidence that we usually experience a crisis in middle age.

Nick Haslam is a professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. CNN is showcasing the work of The Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and academics to provide news analysis and commentary. The content is produced solely by The Conversation.

(CNN)Middle age is often seen as life's pivot point. A hill has been climbed and the view over the other side is unsettling. As Victor Hugo said: "forty is the old age of youth" and "fifty the youth of old age."

The idea adults in midlife face a dark night of the soul -- or desperately escape from it, hair plugs flapping in a convertible's breeze -- is deeply rooted. Studies show the great majority of people believe in the reality of the so-called "midlife crisis," and almost half of adults over 50 claim to have had one. But is it actually real?
There is good evidence a midlife decline in life satisfaction is real. Population surveys typically find both women and men report the lowest satisfaction in middle age. The Australian HILDA survey locates the lowest life satisfaction at age 45, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics singles out