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The Swearer, The Spitter, The Sovereign: Why Age Might Explain Their Behaviour

Pop quiz:

- The Sovereign Lady.

- The ‘auntie’ who spat at a KFC worker at Nex after she was told to wait for her order.

- The guy who shoved a safe distancing officer with a beer can after he was spotted drinking at a void deck.

- The woman who refused to wear a mask, swore at police and resisted arrest at Sun Plaza.

What’s the one thing they all have in common?

No, they’re not all siao lang. (Well, at least not until proven.) Answer: They’re all in their 40s - something that Gen Xers may already have noticed with chagrin, and that millennials are probably smirking about given how much their generation has been stereotyped and slammed.


Fine, so what if they’re all about the same age? While we’re totally on board with justice being handed out for bad behaviour, what if - what if - their antics were not completely a result of madness or self-entitlement? What if those actions were merely a bit of incivility escaping from a build-up of years of simply going through life, like a fart you just can’t hold in?


As it turns out, there is some data to support this. (The incivility, not the fart.) New global research shows that the 40s is the age of ‘maximum unhappiness’. And that’s no matter where you live or what you do for a living.

The study, released earlier this year by American economics professor David Blanchflower, spanned 132 countries across the developed and developing worlds, plus different economic and psychological conditions. It showed that people usually experience happiness in a U-shaped curve, with the bottom part of the U being - you guessed it - the 40s.

In other words, whether you’re rich or poor, employed or unemployed, your level of happiness over your lifetime is still likely to follow this pattern.


There are a couple of theories to explain why the curve exists. According to Blanchflower, your 40s is the age when you realise that maybe you can’t and won’t be able to realise all the dreams you had when you were younger.

Then there’s FOMO. Apparently your 40s is also the time when FOMO-ness reaches its peak, presumably before the wisdom of later age kicks in and you realise there are more important things to obsess over. Like, you know, where you left your keys.

With their brains stuffed with so many distractions, it’s no wonder folks in their 40s might not behave or perform normally. In fact, in one episode of the Netflix show 100 Humans that pitted 20-, 30-, 40-, 50- and 60-somethings against one another in a variety of tasks, the 40s team came last in almost everything. They were too busy bickering to get sh*t done.

So could age be a factor in the actions of misbehaving 40-somethings? It’s possible. In any case, what the science shows is that the mid-life crisis is real. And so maybe a bit of empathy that way wouldn’t hurt, because who knows: Someday, that could be 40-something you too.

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