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Life begins at 40: the biological and cultural roots of the midlife crisis

Prize lecture


The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


During the 20th century, the midlife crisis became a fashionable means of describing feelings of disillusionment with work, disenchantment with relationships, detachment from family responsibilities, and the growing fear of personal death that began to haunt those beyond the age of forty.

Coined in 1965, the term 'midlife crisis' is often used as satire in popular culture, with numerous examples of stereotypical depictions of rebellion and infidelity. It has been a popular focus of research seeking to explain why and how middle age presents particular social, physiological and emotional challenges.

In this lecture, Professor Mark Jackson, winner of the 2018 Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal, explores a rich range of historical sources to argue that the midlife crisis emerged as a result of demographic changes, new biological accounts of ageing, and deepening anxieties about economic decline, political instability, rising level of divorce, and the impact of family breakdown on social cohesion.

Attending this event

  • Free to attend
  • No registration required
  • Live subtitles will be provided for this event
  • Doors will open to the public at 18:10 and seats are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis
  • This event may be popular and entry cannot be guaranteed
  • Travel and accessibility information
  • Please note, this event will be filmed as a livestream broadcast. You can watch the livestream on this page when the event starts.

This event is the 2018 Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Prize Lecture, which is awarded to recognise excellence in a subject relating to the history of science, philosophy of science or the social function of science.

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Event video

Life begins at 40: the biological and cultural roots of the midlife crisis

Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar prize lecture by Professor Mark Jackson.

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
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