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For other uses, see Middle Ages (disambiguation).

Middle age is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age. Various attempts have been made to define this age and it can vary between cultures and historic or previous definitions of this stage of life.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary middle age is between 45–65:[1] "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 around 45 to 65, 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.[2] 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[edit]

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.[3]

Middle adulthood[edit]

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 40 to 60 years old.[3] 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 slows down and the middle aged 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 is lost. Emotional responses and retrospection vary from person to person. Experiencing a sense of mortality, sadness, or loss is common at this age.[4]

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,[4] as well as continued career development.

Physical characteristics[edit]

Middle-aged adults begin to show visible signs of aging. Vision usually changes and many who did not need corrective lenses or eyeglasses may find that they need them. Hearing loss begins, especially at the higher frequencies. Height begins with the maximum height from young adulthood but then begins to diminish. This process is more rapid in women who have osteoporosis. Changes occur in the nervous system and reaction time slows. The ability to perform complex tasks remains intact. Women between 48-55 experience menopause, which ends natural fertility. Menopause can have many side effects, some welcome and some not so welcome.[3] Men may also experience physical changes.[3] Changes occur to skin and hair. Other changes may include decline in physical fitness including 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 begins to increase from 45 and onwards, mainly due to health problems like heart problems, cancer, hypertension, and diabetes.[5][6][7][8][9] Still, the majority of middle-aged people in industrialized nations can expect to live into old age.

Cognitive characteristics[edit]

Erik Erikson refers to this period of adulthood as the generatitivity-versus-stagnation stage. Persons in middle adulthood or middle age have some cognitive loss. This loss usually remains unnoticeable because life experiences and strategies are developed to compensate for any decrease in mental abilities.[3]

Social and personality characteristics[edit]

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'.[3][4] 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.[3]

Those in middle adulthood come to the realization that life will not last forever and that there are limitations to what one might accomplish or achieve. It's quite often that a middle aged family member must experience the death of one's parents. This makes the issue of mortality irrefutable. As children grow and leave, one's role as caregiver and provider changes. The relationships in middle adulthood evolve into connections that are stable.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Middle Age: definition of middle age in Oxford dictionary (American· English) (US)". Oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 2016-06-15. 
  2. ^ Middle age. CollinsDictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved December 05, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Feldman, Robert (2015). Discovering the life span. Boston: Pearson. ISBN 9780205992317. 
  4. ^ a b c d Stern, Theodore (2016). Massachusetts General Hospital comprehensive clinical psychiatry. London: Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-323-29507-9. Access provided by the University of Pittsburgh. 
  5. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 14, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2015 Update". Circ.ahajournals.org. Retrieved 2016-06-15. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "Products - Data Briefs - Number 193 - March 2015". Cdc.gov. Retrieved 2016-06-15. 
  9. ^ "CDC - Rate by Age - Diagnosed Diabetes - Data & Trends - Diabetes DDT". Cdc.gov. 2015-12-01. Retrieved 2016-06-15. 

External links[edit]

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

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