Today’s Midlife Crisis
The generation that invented the internet is reinventing the midlife crisis.
Gen Xers, who now range in age from about 40 to 55, are forgoing the bright red sports car, the new trophy spouse, and other terribly stereotypical behavior in favor of following better health through yoga retreats, experimenting with keto diets or veganism, and working out with a personal trainer a few times a week.
Welcome to a healthier midlife crisis! Instead of destroying their lives, Gen Xers are upgrading them.
Understanding the “why” is a bit of a leap, as every situation is different and no formal studies have been particularly conclusive on this subject. The best guess for the motivation behind this evolution is the growing awareness of how diet and exercise play key roles in prevention of certain types of cancers, heart disease, and dementia. Also, Gen Xers observing their parents and grandparents age has apparently scared them straight.
Is it awareness about health, or the acceptance that many people in their 40s and early 50s simply can’t afford an old-school midlife crisis? Graduating college into the recession of the early 1990s, followed by the dot-com crash, the September 11 attacks, and the Great Recession of 2008 stunted this generation’s financial advancement. Only about one-third of Gen Xers have greater wealth than their parents did at the same age. And the typical Gen Xer has six times more debt than their parents did at this age.
In 2017, AARP studied Gen Xers’ conception of the American Dream. This study revealed that this generation is focused on “well-being, to be healthy and not necessarily worry about the big expensive things and having all the money. Because they can’t have everything the boomers have, their American Dream isn’t necessarily going to be what the boomers’ American Dream was at their age, which was more about having the big house and the car.”
Does the motivation behind this evolution of the midlife crisis really matter, if at the end of the day we have a generation looking to live a healthier life than the previous generation? Giving up a lifetime diet of pizza and chicken wings does allow you to save money on a Lipitor prescription. People make decisions for all sorts of reasons. If—generationally-speaking—the decision being made creates a healthier population, the motivation really doesn’t matter.
Gen Xers are at the point where they can sit back and think “Well, now that I’m a fully fledged adult, what do I really want out of life?” Losses have mounted, grandparents have passed (parents sometimes, too), professional dreams may have gone unfulfilled, and the formerly toned body of youth has transformed. While there’s nothing that can be done about the death of your loved ones and bygone opportunities, there is something that can be done to help you fit into those skinny jeans again! Choosing to focus on what can be accomplished instead of languishing on things out of your control is a sign of maturity, of adulting, if you will.
Gen X has finally grown up.