The Mid-Life Dip in Well-Being: Economists (Who Find It) Versus Psychologists (Who Don't)!David G. Blanchflower, Carol L. Graham
NBER Working Paper No. 26888
Issued in March 2020
A number of studies – including our own – find a mid-life dip in well-being. We review a psychology literature that claims that the evidence of a U-shape is "overblown" and if there is such a decline it is "trivial". We find remarkably strong and consistent evidence across countries and US states that statistically significant U-shapes exist with and without socio-economic controls. The US is somewhat of an outlier with evidence of an early uptick in the raw data with some variables – but not in others – that disappears when controls are included. We show that two of the studies cited by psychologists suggesting there are no U-shapes are in error; we use their data and find the opposite. The effects of the mid-life dip are comparable to major life events like losing a spouse, losing a job or getting cancer. They are clearly not inconsequential.