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Happily Stressed: The Complexity of Well-Being in Midlife


Previous studies provided mixed findings of well-being in midlife, so the present study sought to add new dimensions to this area of research by investigating diverse aspects of midlife well-being, including sources of enjoyment and stress. In a national sample of 834 Americans ages 40–60, overall well-being was high, and most participants agreed that their current time of life is “fun and exciting” (71%), a time of freedom (71%), and a time when “anything is possible” (77%). They also regarded themselves as being in a time of life for focusing on themselves (56%) and “finding out who I really am” (55%). However, 65% assessed this time of their lives as stressful (65%), and many agreed that they often feel anxious (39%), depressed (25%), or that “my life is not going well” (27%). Regression analyses revealed no notable variations in well-being by gender, ethnicity, educational attainment, work status, or relationship status. In sum, among Americans in midlife, well-being is generally high even as it coexists with stress and other mental health challenges.

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Funding for this research was provided by Clark University.

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Correspondence to Jeffrey Jensen Arnett.

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Arnett, J.J. Happily Stressed: The Complexity of Well-Being in Midlife. J Adult Dev 25, 270–278 (2018).

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  • Well-being
  • Life satisfaction
  • Midlife
  • Middle adulthood
  • Stress