Middle age begins at 55 years, survey suggests

Dancers Some say middle age is a state of mind.

Related Stories

Middle age starts much later than previously thought - at the age of 55, research suggests.

And Britons do not see themselves as elderly until they are nudging 70, the survey of 1,000 UK adults aged 50-plus for the Love to Learn online learning website says.

Previous studies have pinpointed the start of middle age as early as 36.

The research suggests that as the population ages, new cut-off points are being drawn.

According to official national data, there are now more adults over 65 than there are under-16s.

Although seven out of 10 early 50-somethings quizzed for the survey defined themselves as middle-aged, the average age at which the period of life was perceived to start was 54 years and 347 days old.

'State of mind'

However, a sizeable minority, nearly one in five, thought middle age did not begin until after the age of 60.

But almost one in five (19%) said that being middle age is a state of mind, rather than something that begins at a certain age.

The research also asked the panel at what age they thought middle age ends. The average came in at 69 years and 277 days.

This suggests middle age itself now spans 14 years and goes well beyond the government's planned state pension age of 66.

Recent research from charity Age UK, looking at how Europeans categorise themselves, found the average age at which old age is perceived to start is 62. But there was less consensus on when youth ended, ranging from 34 in Sweden to 52 in Greece, with an average of 40.

However the Love to Learn research also found that adults in their 50s were upbeat about the benefits of their age group.

'Old at 60'

Gill Jackson, director of new online course provider Love to Learn, said: "More than half said they have more confidence and experience than younger people and are less afraid of making mistakes."

John Craven, who is supporting the website's launch, said the concept of ageing had changed: "Only a generation ago, many people were pretty old at 60.

"These days most of us in our middle and later years are much younger in our attitudes and it's all about having an active state of mind."

But some older people still appear to be haunted about by obstacles from their past, such as failing the 11-plus school entrance exams.

Decades after the event, nearly half of those who did not pass the grammar school entry test said it brought back negative emotions. And one in five said it had put them off learning permanently.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    sounds like people in england are just trying to put off the inevitable that old age comes sooner than you think. Anyone over 40 something is deifinetly getting old. You may not see it but other people can see the cracks beinning to appear as early as 30. Act mature and stop going to pop concerts with kids, it doesn't make you younger, it just makes you look ridiculous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    "No one wants a short life, if we are to live longer then we must reduce our carbon footprint to as near to zero as possible, no more cars, foreign holidays or fancy food."
    why is it that every bit of news comes down to our carbon footprint - no one really cares least of all an old dear sat in front of the heater during winter..

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    As a 50+ I think that I am middle aged. But I wouldn't swap it for being in my 30s or 20s again. Kids have flown the nest, I have more free time despite still working full time and life seems calmer; I'm calmer. These feel like the sunshine years as opposed to the stormy, unsettled monsoon seasons. I also understand life better now than I ever did.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    Obviously media 'inspired' tripe taken up eagerly by the viciously rightwing Daily express who want us all to work till we drop.

    Its pure lies. Old age begins at 60 but you may feel old at 55. Some will not feel old till 70.

    It all depends. Give the rightwing gangster media the thumbs down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    I am 63 and do not consider myself to be middle aged - more like 6, if the truth be known! My Aunt was 100 this year and she said that she would admit to being old when she had that birthday - she has decided to opt out of that now! Age is just a number - your age is how you think and act.

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    This is all wishful thinking. The logic of saying that middle age begins at 55 is that most people will reach 110. The logic of saying that you become elderly at 70 is, presumably, that you are still middle-aged at 69. Poppycock! It's all whistling in the dark, in the hopes that through exercise and a diet high in fibre one can cheat death a little longer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    There are some who ARE old at 35..overweight, inactive, lost the plot about themselves and their drive for life....and there are others in their 60's/70's + who get out and DO things...continue to take risks, have fun and do things they never have before.
    Once you stop taking RISKS....you will get old.
    66?....try boxercise.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    Agree with Claire. I am 72 and feell very fit, full of life and no intention of retiring. It is about attitude as much as anything. Big mistake is to retire and do nothing. If retirement has any meaning then it should be about having time to do what you want rather what is demamnded of you by others. Not just sitting on your bum and moaning about the youger generation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    I'm 73 but having more fun than when I was 23. A young attitude and good health coupled with experience and confidence and the world is yours. Perhaps it's in the genes - I didn't consider my mother 'old' until she reached 90 after which age she started suffering from senile dementia, unfortunately. I hope I can emulate her, without the dementia!

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    My folks are in their 60s and I most certainly do not see them as 'old'. These categories are mostly useless*. My great grandmother lived to be 103 and was healthy to the very end (in 2000s). I guess that is old. But 60?

    *It could only be useful in the sense of you should have more medical exams. But actually, 30s-40s works nicely for that and is arguably better than 55+ for many illnesses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    as far as i'm concerned middle age ends when erectile disfunction begins...

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    The French say you're as old as your arteries. They'll tell you if you're middle-aged or old...

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Do you mean 'it had put them off learning - permanently'?
    Or 'it had put them off - learning permanently'?
    Come on, guys. This piece isn't about pigeonholing. It's about perceptions.
    And by the way - the bit about failing the 11-plus - has Mr. Gove seen it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    I remember my grandmother in her 80s (a decade ago) saying she didn't want to go into an "old people's home" because "it was full of old people" - unlike her obviously!

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Dec 16th my I'll be 65 retired early at 62, now I'am so busy enjoying my life. I've not really got time to get old.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    I don't think of my mum as old. She is 72 and looks in her 50s. She doesn't think of herself as old either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    No one wants a short life, if we are to live longer then we must reduce our carbon footprint to as near to zero as possible, no more cars, foreign holidays or fancy food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    ...continued....;)....... however Old Age is when a person will start or include or finish a conversation by stating their age...as if by getting there deserved a reward.... did i mention i am 65 .?

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Here, in North America, we encounter new perception based issue: 40 is new 30. Many women postpone giving birth until after 35. Suddenly, their realise, they have problem conceiving and run to the doctors, who shocked them. I look 28, feel 25, what do you mean I have aged? "Middle age" just a label. Biology is what really matter see above "Brain function..45". Enjoy life, learn it, ignore labels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    The above article states "According to official national data, there are now more adults over 65 than there are under-16s." I want to suggest that it is much worse - as far as I know there are no adults under 16s, just infants, toddlers, preteens and adolescences.


Page 3 of 26


More Education & Family stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.