Another Midlife-Crisis Victim: Apes

Slump in happiness mirrors that in humans

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 20, 2012 3:21 AM CST

(Newser) – While you won't find them buying sports cars or having affairs with their biographers, apes are just as susceptible to midlife crises as their human counterparts, a new study claims. Researchers questioned the keepers of hundreds of captive orangutans and chimpanzees and found that just like with humans, the apes experienced a distinct slump in well-being toward the middle of their lifespan before getting happier in their final years, USA Today reports. The zookeepers and scientists were asked about the apes' mood, enjoyment gained from socializing, and their happiness at achieving certain goals.

"There's a common understanding that there's a dip in wellbeing in middle age, and that's been found in many datasets across human cultures," one of the researchers tells the Guardian. "We took a step back and asked whether it's possible that instead of the midlife crisis being human-specific, and driven only by social factors, it reflects some evolved tendency for middle-aged individuals to have lower well-being." The apes' mid-life slump, he says, may be the result of age-related changes in the brain that also happen to humans.

An adult Sumatran orangutan watches the crowd from its perch at the Como Zoo  in St. Paul, Minn.
An adult Sumatran orangutan watches the crowd from its perch at the Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minn.   (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
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