Humans are susceptible to depression at any age, but life tends to throw us particular curveballs and changes related to the decade of life we’re in. Did you worry about boys rejecting you between the ages of 1 and 10? Not likely. And did you worry about your relationships ending in divorce when you were just 21? Well, maybe, but you were just being dramatic. If you are struggling with feelings of depression, you may find some comfort in the fact that most people your age deal with the very same issues—it’s just the ebb and flow of life. If you know about these hurdles in advance, you may be able to take some steps to keep them from causing depression. Here are common causes of depression in your 20s, 30s, and 40s.
20s: Loss of community after college
You may for the very first time live alone in your 20s, right after college. At the very least, you will no longer live in a building or neighborhood where you can step outside, and instantly see 30 of your friends and peers. People move away from campus, out of the city or even out of state, which can leave recent college grads feeling quite lonely. This is a very important time to seek out new communities, perhaps through meetup groups, exercise classes or sports leagues.
20s: Body issues
Women, in particular, put a lot of stock in their body image in their 20s. In your 20s, you haven’t really been on this earth for very long. You’re still figuring out who you are, and you haven’t full discovered all of the wonderful traits and characteristics you have to offer friends and romantic partners. This usually results in 20-year-old women feeling like if their bodies aren’t “perfect” then they aren’t valuable or attractive. This is an important age to volunteer, intern, try different recreational classes and let your full personality and skill set shine.
20s: Feeling lost in one’s career
Nobody knows exactly what they want to do in their twenties, and if they tell you they do, they’re wrong. Very few people end up where they thought they would in their careers. This is a confusing time when you don’t know which internship or assistant job to take. It can feel like these first career steps will shape your life entirely, and that’s a lot of pressure. But, that’s also not true. Life is long, and you have plenty of time to change paths. Let your intuition guide you on early job decisions.
20s: Dating rejection
As stated before, we deal with a lot of self-esteem issues in our 20s. By the time you hit your 30s, you can usually tell pretty early whether or not you’re compatible with someone, and you don’t take it personally if they don’t want a second date—you know you’re desirable. But your 20s can be confusing; we often don’t ask ourselves, “Do I like this person?” but rather “Does he like me?” or “Why doesn’t he like me?” Those types of questions don’t lead to much happiness.
20s: New responsibilities
In your 20s, you may suddenly find yourself responsible for negotiating your own terms on a car lease, researching health insurance plans, understanding what the fair rent prices should be in various neighborhoods and calculating your tax deductions. All of these new responsibilities can consume you, and make you feel like life will never be fun again. Talk to somebody older; they can tell you everybody feels that way at your age, and everyone is eventually happy again.
30s: Losing friends to marriage, kids etc.
In your 30s, even if you do have a solid friend group, you may find you spend less and less time together as people get married, take on more responsibility at work, and have children. Traditions like weekly brunch with your girlfriends may begin to dissolve, leaving you once again feeling community-less (like you did right after college). This is, one again, a good time to explore new hobbies and interests, as well as dedicate more time to the few friends who do have time for you.
30s: No longer having a 20-year-old body
When your 30s hit, you may realize your metabolism slows down, you need more sleep to feel energized throughout the day, you cannot drink as much alcohol as you used to and some small wrinkles are showing up on your face. Your 30s can be the first wave of recognizing your mortality (you’ll likely have another similar wave in your 50s or 60s). If you get into healthier habits, and accept your body needs extra TLC, you’ll notice instant improvements and feel you have a better handle on your body.
30s: Feeling behind on career goals
A lot of teenagers and college students imagine that by their 30s, they’ll own thriving businesses, or be CEOs or famous writers. That is rarely the case. Many people are, much to their surprise, still flailing in their careers in their 30s. Comparing what you thought your career would look like in your 30s to what it actually looks like can be depressing. So don’t do that. Instead, compare it to most of your friends—they’re probably flailing a bit, too.
30s: Failed long-term relationships (or lack thereof)
Many high school and college-aged individuals also imagine that by their 30s, they’ll be happily married. Finding themselves still single and seeking that first substantial relationship, or breaking off long-term relationships, can be a shock. But that’s just old societal expectations peeking in. Let’s be honest: nobody really knows who they are until their late 20s or early 30s. So to expect to have already made the enormous commitment of marriage before 30 is unrealistic. It happens for some, but don’t worry if it doesn’t happen for you.
30s: Money concerns
Here’s another thing people assume they’ll have under control by their 30s but many don’t: money. It can be quite humbling to realize that in your 30s, you may still need to ask your parents for help on a major medical bill, or to cosign on a loan. But with the way the economy is going today (especially with student loan debt) a lot of people need at least into their late 30s to have any substantial savings.
40s: Feeling that friends have changed
By your 40s, a number of things may have changed your friends’ personalities and perspectives. Their political ideals may have drastically changed, due to their spouses, their chosen career path or a number of other factors. Some friends may not be as positive as they used to be, while some may have enormous egos after a lot of success. This is an age where it can feel like, even though you have friends, you are losing them just because they’re no longer who they used to be.
40s: Health concerns
In your 40s, your doctor may start to talk to you in a more serious tone. Conditions and problems that were only hypotheticals in your 20s and 30s can become real risks. Furthermore, you may have friends and colleagues your own age who have suffered serious conditions. If you aren’t already into meditation, this could be a good time to get into it, and learn ways to be present rather than worrying about time passing.
40s: A poor work/life balance
By your 40s, you may find that you’ve become quite successful and a respected individual in your field of work. But this can come with a lot of responsibilities, longer hours and a poor work/life balance. Don’t let the things that matter to you (like friendships, family and your marriage) get away from you at this time.
40s: Relationship slumps
If you are married, around your 40s you may have been with your partner for anywhere from five to 15 years. After that amount of time with someone, you’re bound to hit a slump. In fact, some research indicates that the 40s is an age when people are most likely to cheat. This is an important time to rediscover your partner through travel, special date nights and time away from your children.
40s: Feeling like youth is coming to an end
Naturally, in your 40s, you can feel that your youth is coming to an end. It is very common for women in their 40s to go through a sort of morning phase for their youth. But a lot of women get over this phase, and find that their happiest years actually come in their 50s and 60s. Those can be decades when, if your marriage is still intact, it can feel stronger than ever, when you achieve a great work/life balance and when you really know who your closest friends are.