The Mid-Life Dip in Well-Being: Economists (Who Find It) Versus Psychologists (Who Don't)!
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.
The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.