Economics External Seminar: Andrew Oswald (Warwick)

14 May 2019, 4.00 PM - 14 May 2019, 5.15 PM

Andrew Oswald (Warwick)

1B6 Priory Road Complex

TitleWhy is There so Much Midlife Distress in Affluent Nations?

Abstract: This paper provides evidence of severe levels of distress among midlife citizens in affluent countries. Yet these individuals are close to their peak earnings, reside in the healthiest and wealthiest nations on the planet, and live in the most prosperous era in history. This is a troubling paradox that remains unknown, we suspect, to almost all economists and social scientists. The paper documents a range of quadratic patterns in data on midlife suicide, sleeping problems, suicidal feelings, concentration difficulties, forgetfulness, alcohol dependence, job strain, and severe headaches. It does not rely on information on ‘happiness’ scores. We connect our findings to three disputatious literatures (on well-being, the Case-Deaton hypothesis on despair among middle-aged Americans, and the ‘midlife crisis’) and propose a kind of call to intellectual arms from social and natural scientists willing to pay attention to, and attempt to understand, what appears to be a fundamental problem in modern society. 

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