If you’re reading this and lucky enough to be aged under 45-years-old, it’s time to head to Neverland.

According to a recent report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), middle-age is the most unhappy time of our life.  Looking at four measures of personal wellbeing, anxiety levels are reported to reach their peak among the middle years:

“Average anxiety ratings increase through early and middle years, peaking between 45 to 59 years” confirmed ONS in their report.

The good news is that our younger years and retirement age are fairly pleasant, with ratings falling again in later life, but these statistics do present a substantial challenge, especially for employers and organisations.

Generation X – The Sandwich

Sandwiched in between the ‘Baby Boomers’ of the 50s and our new, tech-savvy ‘Millennials’ of the 90s, is ‘Generation X’.

Frequently quoted to be those aged between 34 and 54-year-olds, Generation X is a diverse group spanning 20 years and currently represents our ‘middle-aged’. Coupled with an increasing retirement age they also make up a significant proportion of our workforce.

And they're great! Born and working during a time of emerging technology, they’re incredibly adaptable and quick to learn.  Living during the housing crisis and rising interest rates, they’re conscious of financial security and very resilient.  They’re also known to be independent; colloquially recognised as latchkey children who were 'doing it all'.

So what’s happening to our valuable generation and how can we change it?

The issues for our middle-aged population is unfortunately out of their and our control. On a positive note, we’re all living longer.  In June 2015, ONS announced the UK population is at its oldest ever, with an increase of six years between 1974 and 2014.

For our Gen-Xers however, while their loved ones are around longer, they’re now often balancing caring for their children with looking after elderly parents and those who depend on them in the generation before and the generation before that.

Glenn Everett, ONS Director of measuring national wellbeing explained, “the low wellbeing in middle-age might also suggest that those in this age group are struggling with the double responsibility of caring for children and for elderly parents.” In particular, he said “those in their middle years may have more demands placed on their time and might struggle to balance work and family commitments.”

Combatting the costs

While Britain’s growing and ageing population is good news, especially for society and our health, it’s clear that for families and employees it’s extra pressure. Anyone who’s experienced caring knows the unprecedented demands and emotional challenges, and the stress implications it has for everyone. With one in four caring and almost 60% admitting caring has an impact on their work, eldercare is high on the agenda for employees and employers who are trying to combat the costs. 

A little Pixie dust

Creating a culture where elder and dependant care is acknowledged and supported is therefore increasingly essential for our workforce and their wellbeing. Employees need somewhere they can have faith and trust in to know their work/life challenges and aspirations are understood, and where supports them not just today, but tomorrow too.

Our employees know what they need.  For employers, our opportunities lie in embracing the change and looking for the possibilities and solutions for family-friendly practices.

In developing a place where people can bring their whole selves to work, we can create a positive and joyful environment in which our people can flourish and our organisations can thrive.

After all, as Peter Pan once said, if we think of happy thoughts, we’ll fly.