The Washington Post - November 27, 2012
Study finds ‘midlife
crisis' in chimps and orangutans; may shed light on our emotional lives
By Associated Press
NEW YORK -- Chimpanzees going through a
midlife crisis? It sounds like a setup for a joke.
But there it is,
in the title of a report published Monday in a scientific journal: "Evidence
for a midlife crisis in great apes."
So what do these apes do? Buy
red Ferraris? Leave their mates for some cute young bonobos?
"I believe no ape has ever purchased a sports car," said Andrew Oswald,
an author of the study. But researchers report that captive chimps and
orangutans do show the same low ebb in emotional well-being at midlife that
some studies find in people.
That suggests the human tendency toward
midlife discontent may have been passed on through evolution, rather than
resulting simply from the hassles of modern life, said Oswald, a professor
of economics at the University of Warwick in England who presented his work
Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
second study in the journal looks at a younger age group and finds that
happiness in youth can lead to higher income a few years down the road.
More on that later. Let's get back to those apes.
have concluded that happiness in human adults tends to follow a certain
course between ages 20 and 70: It starts high and declines over the years to
reach a low point in the late 40s, then turns around and rises to another
peak at 70. On a graph, that's a U-shaped pattern. Some researchers question
whether that trend is real, but to Oswald the mystery is what causes it.
"This is one of the great patterns of human life. We're all going to
slide along this U for good or ill," he said. "So what explains it?"