David Bainbridge is a clinical veterinary anatomist at Cambridge University and a science writer. He is the author of Middle Age - A Natural History. He’s also a funny chap (as they say across the Pond.) Here’s my summation of a recent article he wrote for the BBC Online News Magazine, entitled, Just What is Middle Age Anyway?
First off, he has a confession to make.
His confession: He’s 43, has a belly, reduced skin elasticity, extra hair where he really doesn’t want it, and a sports car.
He is, he admits, a middle-age cliché.
As a vet and reproductive biologist, Bainbridge gazed a scientist’s eye upon “middle age.” This is what he found: The physical changes of middle age represent a developmental stage of life. There is a controlling force at work which allows a few parts of us to suddenly fail, while maintaining the rest of us in good condition.
“Middle-aged development is programmed into each of us. We each possess the genetic recipe for long, healthy, human middle age. And we owe that genetic inheritance to hundreds of thousands of years of human history, during which - contrary to what you might think - humans frequently lived into their fifth and sixth decades,” writes Bainbridge.
He continues to demolish the three myths of male midlife crisis:
1) Emotional flux and uncertainty. Men are no more likely to become depressed in their 40s than at any other time. Studies suggest that our mood seems to improve slightly. Also, we are no more likely to experience what we think of as "life-turning points" at this stage of our lives.
2) Lusting after inappropriately young women. At 16, boys seek women who are roughly two years older than them. This age gap narrows to zero by the time we are 24 and thereafter we prefer younger women, with the age gap progressively increasing to only 12 years by our own old age. Thus, there is no obvious evidence of middle-aged men suddenly hunting down young women, although it is certainly true that men who remarry do tend to marry partners younger than their first spouses - as women who remarry also do.
3) Infantile behavior. The author offers anecdotal evidence of such, but his “evidence” rings true nonetheless. “Boys,” Bainbridge states, “often have fundamentally different interests from girls - wheels, running around, machines, making things, breaking things, hitting each other - generally ‘doing stuff’.
His second claim is that men's interests do not change fundamentally between the ages of eight and 60 - with the exceptions of romance and sex. Instead, all that happens in middle age is that we become once again free to indulge ourselves. Men have more money, some time and less fear of ridicule by others.
So guys, no need to worry. Go ahead and play with your grandkids Legos. Finally, scientific proof the your midlife crisis is a myth.
Read the complete article here: www.bbc.co.uk
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