Middle age

For other uses, see Middle Ages (disambiguation).

Middle age is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age.[1]


According to the Oxford English Dictionary middle age is between 45–65:[2] "The period between early adulthood and old age, usually considered as the years from about 45 to 65." The US Census lists the category middle age from 45 to 65. Merriam-Webster list middle age from 45-64,[3] while prominent psychologist Erik Erikson saw it starting a little earlier and defines middle adulthood as between 40 and 65. The Collins English Dictionary, list it between the ages of 40 and 60.[4] and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - the standard diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association - used to define middle age as 40–60, but as of DSM-IV (1994) revised the definition upwards to 45–65.

Young adulthood

Further information: Young adult (psychology)

This time in the lifespan is considered to be the developmental stage of those who are between 20 years old and 40 years old. Recent developmental theories have recognized that development occurs across the entire life of a person as they experience changes cognitively, physically, socially, and in personality.[1][5]

Middle adulthood

This time period in the life of a person can be referred to as middle age. This time span has been defined as the time between ages 45 to 65 years old.[2][1] Many changes occur between young adulthood and this stage.

There is not a specific age or markers of transitioning between young adulthood to middle adulthood. The maturing process is viewed as completed and gives way to the aging process. The body may slow down and the middle aged might become more sensitive to diet, substance abuse, stress, and rest. Chronic health problems can become an issue along with disability or disease. Approximately one centimeter per decade of height may be lost.[6] Emotional responses and retrospection vary from person to person. Experiencing a sense of mortality, sadness, or loss is common at this age.[7]

Those in middle adulthood or middle age continue to develop relationships and adapt to the changes in relationships. Changes can be the interacting with growing and grown children and aging parents. Community involvement is fairly typical of this stage of adulthood,[7] as well as continued career development.

Physical characteristics

Middle-aged adults may begin to show visible signs of aging. Vision could change and many who did not need corrective lenses or eyeglasses may find that they need them. Hearing might be affected and Height may also start to diminish.[6] This process can be more rapid in women who have osteoporosis. Changes might occur in the nervous system. The ability to perform complex tasks remains intact. Women between 48-55 experience menopause, which ends natural fertility.[8] Menopause can have many side effects, some welcome and some not so welcome. Men may also experience physical changes. Changes can occur to skin and hair. Other changes may include decline in physical fitnessincluding a reduction in aerobic performance and a decrease in maximal heart rate. These measurements are generalities and people may exhibit these changes at different rates and times.

The mortality rate can begin to increase from 45 and onwards, mainly due to health problems like heart problems, cancer, hypertension, and diabetes.[9][10][11][12][13] Still, the majority of middle-aged people in industrialized nations can expect to live into old age.

Cognitive characteristics

Erik Erikson refers to this period of adulthood as the generatitivity-versus-stagnation stage. Persons in middle adulthood or middle age may have some cognitive loss. This loss usually remains unnoticeable because life experiences and strategies are developed to compensate for any decrease in mental abilities.[14]

Social and personality characteristics

Marital satisfaction remains but other family relationships can be more difficult. Career satisfaction focuses more on inner satisfaction and contentedness and less on ambition and the desire to 'advance'.[7] Even so, career changes often occur. Middle adulthood or middle age can be a time when a person re-examines their life by taking stock, and evaluating their accomplishments. Morality may change and become more conscious. The perception that those in this stage of development or life undergo a 'mid-life' crisis is largely false. This period in life is usually satisfying, tranquil. Personality characteristics remain stable throughout this period.[1]This may make the issue of mortality irrefutable. The relationships in middle adulthood may continue to evolve into connections that are stable.[7]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "PsycNET - Option to Buy".
  2. 1 2 "Middle Age: definition of middle age in Oxford dictionary (American· English) (US)". Oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 2016-06-15.
  3. "Definition of MIDDLE AGE".
  4. Middle age. CollinsDictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved December 05, 2012.
  5. Erik H. Erikson, Joan M. Erikson, The Life Cycle Completed: Extended Version (W. W. Norton, 1998),
  6. 1 2 "Osteoporosis Tests and Diagnosis".
  7. 1 2 3 4 Stern, Theodore (2016). Massachusetts General Hospital comprehensive clinical psychiatry. London: Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-323-29507-9. Access provided by the University of Pittsburgh.
  8. Bourgeois, F. John; Gehrig, Paola A.; Veljovich, Daniel S. (1 January 2005). "Obstetrics and Gynecology Recall". Lippincott Williams & Wilkins via Google Books.
  9. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 14, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016.
  10. "Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2015 Update". Circ.ahajournals.org. Retrieved 2016-06-15.
  11. Anne Case; Angus Deaton. "Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century" (PDF). Pnas.org. Retrieved 2016-06-15.
  12. "Products - Data Briefs - Number 193 - March 2015". Cdc.gov. Retrieved 2016-06-15.
  13. "CDC - Rate by Age - Diagnosed Diabetes - Data & Trends - Diabetes DDT". Cdc.gov. 2015-12-01. Retrieved 2016-06-15.
  14. Gordon-Salant, Sandra; Frisina, Robert D.; Fay, Richard R.; Popper, Arthur (3 May 2010). "The Aging Auditory System". Springer Science & Business Media via Google Books.

Preceded by
Young Adult
Stages of human development
Middle age
Succeeded by
Old age
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