UK: Mid-life misery: The sad, seventeen million “sandwich generation”

21 Apr 2017

New official figures[1] report that, as a nation, we are happier today than at any point since we began measuring happiness in April 2011. A period of economic recovery and high employment may have contributed to this relative joy.

This is the view of the country as a whole, but analysis from Aviva shows that the picture is different for different ages, especially for those in mid-life. 

Life may begin at 40, but it also appears to be the age at which our burdens begin to weigh heaviest.  The underlying data shows that we are the least happy, least satisfied and most anxious in our 40s and 50s – an age that is often referred to as “the sandwich generation” as we struggle to support younger and older family members at the same time. (See tables below)                               

The challenges facing those in their 40s and 50s are numerous, including a changing and longer working life. The State Pension Age is set to rise for all, and those defining themselves as “retired” before they reach 65 is at the lowest level we’ve seen since 1997 (1.2 million people today, down from 1.6 million in 2011)[2]. The reality of a longer working life is not lost on those in their 40s and 50s.

As our life expectancy increases, a longer working life should be encouraged – but planning and preparation must also be encouraged.

Aviva’s own research[3] identified a clear link between contentment in later life and those individuals who plan for their retirement at an earlier age. Aviva found that two-thirds (68%) of today’s retirees who began planning for retirement a long time in advance have reported that their retirement exceeded their expectations. This compares to less than one-in-two (48%) of those who had made no plans. Worryingly, half of those in their 40s and 50s (54% and 49%, respectively) said they had done nothing yet to prepare for their retirement.

Commenting on today’s report, Alistair McQueen, Head of Savings & Retirement at Aviva said:

“There are over 17 million people in their 40s and 50s[4]. Our analysis suggests it is an age of challenge. The sandwich generation are being squeezed by pressures from all sides.

“Our happiness will be shaped by various factors, many of which may be outside our direct control. However, we can take control of planning our finances for later life and this has the potential to boost our happiness.

“Simple actions like understanding our entitlements from the state at retirement; our current levels of saving; and our potential income in retirement could be the first steps towards building this sense of control.

“As our life expectancy increases, a longer working life is understandable and should be encouraged. Age should not be a barrier to contribution, but people must also be encouraged and helped to plan as they adapt to this change.”

ONS Personal Wellbeing - Happiness league tables

 

Happiness league tables - by age

 

2011/12

2012/13

2013/14

2014/15

2015/16

 

Most happy age

75 to 79

70 to 74

65 to 69

65 to 69

65 to 69

 

70 to 74

65 to 69

70 to 74

70 to 74

70 to 74

 

65 to 69

75 to 79

75 to 79

75 to 79

75 to 79

 

80 to 84

16 to 19

16 to 19

80 to 84

16 to 19

 

16 to 19

80 to 84

80 to 84

16 to 19

85 to 89

 

60 to 64

85 to 89

60 to 64

60 to 64

80 to 84

 

85 to 89

60 to 64

85 to 89

85 to 89

60 to 64

 

90 & over

90 & over

30 to 34

30 to 34

25 to 29

 

25 to 29

30 to 34

25 to 29

25 to 29

90 & over

 

20 to 24

25 to 29

90 & over

20 to 24

20 to 24

 

35 to 39

20 to 24

20 to 24

35 to 39

30 to 34

 

30 to 34

35 to 39

35 to 39

40 to 44

35 to 39

 

55 to 59

40 to 44

40 to 44

90 & over

55 to 59

 

40 to 44

55 to 59

55 to 59

55 to 59

40 to 44

 

50 to 54

50 to 54

45 to 49

45 to 49

50 to 54

Least happy age

45 to 49

45 to 49

50 to 54

50 to 54

45 to 49

ONS Personal Wellbeing - Satisfaction league tables

 

Satisfaction league tables - by age

 

2011/12

2012/13

2013/14

2014/15

2015/16

 

Most satisfied age

16 to 19

16 to 19

16 to 19

16 to 19

16 to 19

 

75 to 79

70 to 74

70 to 74

70 to 74

70 to 74

 

65 to 69

75 to 79

65 to 69

65 to 69

65 to 69

 

70 to 74

65 to 69

75 to 79

75 to 79

75 to 79

 

80 to 84

80 to 84

80 to 84

80 to 84

80 to 84

 

90 & over

85 to 89

25 to 29

25 to 29

85 to 89

 

60 to 64

90 & over

30 to 34

30 to 34

25 to 29

 

85 to 89

20 to 24

60 to 64

20 to 24

20 to 24

 

25 to 29

25 to 29

85 to 89

60 to 64

30 to 34

 

20 to 24

60 to 64

20 to 24

85 to 89

60 to 64

 

30 to 34

30 to 34

90 & over

90 & over

35 to 39

 

35 to 39

35 to 39

35 to 39

35 to 39

90 & over

 

40 to 44

40 to 44

40 to 44

40 to 44

40 to 44

 

55 to 59

55 to 59

55 to 59

55 to 59

55 to 59

 

50 to 54

50 to 54

45 to 49

45 to 49

45 to 49

Least satisfied age

45 to 49

45 to 49

50 to 54

50 to 54

50 to 54

ONS Personal Wellbeing - Anxiety league tables

 

Anxiety league tables - by age

 

2011/12

2012/13

2013/14

2014/15

2015/16

 

Most anxious age

50 to 54

50 to 54

50 to 54

50 to 54

55 to 59

 

45 to 49

55 to 59

55 to 59

55 to 59

50 to 54

 

55 to 59

45 to 49

45 to 49

45 to 49

40 to 44

 

40 to 44

40 to 44

40 to 44

40 to 44

45 to 49

 

35 to 39

35 to 39

35 to 39

35 to 39

35 to 39

 

30 to 34

30 to 34

60 to 64

60 to 64

30 to 34

 

25 to 29

60 to 64

30 to 34

30 to 34

60 to 64

 

60 to 64

25 to 29

25 to 29

16 to 19

25 to 29

 

20 to 24

20 to 24

20 to 24

25 to 29

20 to 24

 

80 to 84

70 to 74

70 to 74

80 to 84

90 & over

 

90 & over

65 to 69

65 to 69

20 to 24

16 to 19

 

85 to 89

75 to 79

75 to 79

85 to 89

85 to 89

 

65 to 69

16 to 19

80 to 84

75 to 79

75 to 79

 

70 to 74

80 to 84

90 & over

70 to 74

80 to 84

 

75 to 79

85 to 89

16 to 19

90 & over

65 to 69

Least anxious age

16 to 19

90 & over

85 to 89

65 to 69

70 to 74

Ends

Media Enquiries:

Fiona Whytock, Senior Media Relations Manager, T: +44 (0)7800 692299 E: Fiona.whytock@aviva.com  

Alistair McQueen, Head of Savings and Retirement at Aviva is available for interview today

Notes to editors:

  • Aviva provides life insurance, general insurance, health insurance and asset management to 33 million customers.
  • In the UK we are the leading insurer serving one in every four households and have strong businesses in selected markets in Europe, Asia and Canada. Our shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange and we are a member of the FTSE100 index.  
  • Aviva’s asset management business, Aviva Investors, provides asset management services to both Aviva and external clients, and currently manages over £340 billion in assets. Total group assets under management at Aviva group are £450 billion.
  • Aviva helps people save for the future and manage the risks of everyday life; we paid out £34.4 billion in benefits and claims in 2016.
  • By serving our customers well, we are building a business which is strong and sustainable, which our people are proud to work for, and which makes a positive contribution to society.
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Sources: