The 40s is often called the "Deadline Decade."

You get the feeling that you’ve somehow reached a halfway mark, so you start to take stock of your life. The future that you’ve long planned for is happening right now, but it is not exactly bright. You feel the ground moving under your feet, and you are thrust in a great big funk. It’s called a midlife crisis—and for most people in their 40s, it’s all a myth.

The concept of a "midlife crisis" caught on in the 1970s. Fuelled by bestsellers like Gail Sheehy’s Passages and Daniel Levinson’s The Seasons of a Man’s Life, many saw life as something that goes through certain patterns, certain cycles of predictable events. You get a job, get married, have children, get promoted, then retire.

Today, these patterns, while in some cases still applicable, have become an option rather than a rule. Because of the diversity of lifestyles now available to men and women, the "midlife crisis" of 20 years ago is making way for today’s "midlife calm."

In a Harvard Medical School study involving some 15,000 people and spanning eight years, scholars have found no evidence that crises occur more frequently in midlife than at any other age. Indeed, for many of the respondents, the 40s were perhaps the best years of their lives! Why is this so? Well, there are several factors. Scroll through the gallery to find out what they are.

(First published as "Life After 40" in the "Personal Matters" section of Good Housekeeping Philippines' March 2001 issue. Adapted for use in FemaleNetwork. Screencap of Eat Pray Love courtesy of Columbia Pictures.)

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