January 11, 2010 / 9:30 PM / 8 years ago

Economic, health worries make 35 the new 40

<p>A man crosses a street in the rain in New York, April 20, 2009.Lucas Jackson</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Worries about the economy and healthcare are pushing people into middle age earlier, making 35 the new 40, according to a new report.

Research by the Philips Center for Health and Well-Being showed that 40 was previously widely considered as the milestone that defined middle age but this has been lowered to 35.

"Thirty five is the new 40 as Americans feel the pressures of middle age earlier than ever," the Amsterdam-based center said in a statement.

Katy Hartley, the director of the center which aims to improve quality of life, said stress about the economy and healthcare that you would typically associate with turning 40 is starting at a younger age.

"The data suggests the new age for middle age is 35," she said in an interview.

Nearly 80 percent of 35 year olds questioned for the Philips Index said they were concerned about the economy, and three-quarters were also worried about healthcare. These stresses, according to the study, have contributed to the feeling of early onset of middle age or the loss of five years of youth.

The report showed the economy topped the list of stressors for most Americans at 74 percent which was nearly double from a 2004 survey. A nearly equal amount said they feel positive about their overall health and well-being.

But many Americans may not be realistic about their health.

Only 39 percent of Americans consider themselves to be overweight, according to the index while a report by the National Center for Health Statistics showed 67 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.

Americans seem to accept being overweight as normal.

"I think the data would support that," said Hartley.

Although most Americans said they are in good health, only 51 percent think they are as fit as they could be and 66 percent wished they exercised more.

When they do get sick, more than half of the 1,503 Americans who were questioned for the index said a doctor would be their first choice for getting information, followed by the Internet.

"The role of doctors remains important. Fifty-three percent of people still see their doctor as the first source of information and the second source of information is the Internet," said Hartley.

But most people seek the company of family and friends to improve their health and well being, while job and salary were far less important.

"Initially it looks fine. We all feel great about our health and well being. I think when you dig a level deeper that Americans are struggling to balance spending time with their family, with their jobs, with the economy and with stress levels," said Hartley.

Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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