Mid-life crises do exist: University research

Are you approaching 40? Do you feel increasing pressure to do that thing you always wanted to do but never did? According to research from Australia, the U.K. and Germany you could be having a mid-life crisis.

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Results from a survey of thousands of people in three countries spanning multiple decades indicate that people generally experience a dip in happiness around the same age.

"We have identified a clear 'U-shape' in human wellbeing," said lead researcher Dr. Terence Cheng, from the University of Melbourne's Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.

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"The jury's now in. People really do experience mid-life crises," he added.

The study, entitled the Longitudinal Evidence for a Midlife Nadir in Human Wellbeing study, was conducted in partnership with the U.K.'s University of Warwick and the London School of Economics, and was published as a working paper by the German-based Institute for the Study of Labor.

Data was compiled from household surveys and participants were asked to rate the level of satisfaction with their lives.

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"What is interesting is the consistency of the results in all of the three countries we examined. Human happiness hits the lowest point around the ages of 40 to 42," said Dr. Cheng.

Dr. Cheng also pointed out that other findings had also indicated that the mid-life crises was also evident in apes, suggesting the phenomenon could be part of our genetic make-up.

"Indeed all the more intriguing is that the U-shape pattern has also been recently observed in research on great apes. Perhaps we are more similar than we think?" he added.

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Previous evidence of mid-life crises has been determined by cross-sectional data, the University said, in other words, comparing different people's happiness at different ages. But Dr. Cheng said tracking the same person's happiness over time makes the story more accurate.

"We looked at the wellbeing of 'Mr Jones' at age 35, 45, 55, and so on. This is important as the U-shape finding therefore does not arise from variations across different people, but rather within individuals," he added.

In Australia, data was compiled from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, which is a nationally representative survey of Australian people which has been conducted annually since 2001.

By CNBC's Katie Holliday: Follow her on Twitter @hollidaykatie