Quarter life crisis point

Are you suffering from a QLC? (Quarter Life Crisis)

By Rebecca Coxon

What is a Quarter Life Crisis?

Our mid twenties are supposed to be some the best years of our lives. Still young and with a wealth of opportunities at our feet - jobs, relationships, marriage, children. The world is our oyster. Or so they say.

But are the pressures to settle down and have already achieved what you want in life too much to bear? Perhaps, when the reality today is that twentysomething's can find themselves burdened with student debt, low graduate prospects, unemployment and the pressure to get married, have children and get on the housing ladder by the time they are 30.

Abby Wilner, co-author of Quarterlife Crisis and Quarterlifer’s Companion in 1997, coined the term after she graduated from college, moved back home and couldn’t figure out what to do with her life.

Recent studies

Dr Oliver Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich’s School of Health & Social Care and his colleagues interviewed 50 people aged between 25 and 35 about their experiences of crises occurring in early adulthood.  Robinson recently presented his findings at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Glasgow and worked with researchers from Birkbeck College .

Themes from the interviews were identified and developed into a model of ‘quarter life crisis’ which follows a four phase structure similar to those described in literature on mid-life crises, but occurring much earlier.

  • Phase 1.  Feeling "locked in" to a job or relationship, or both.
  • Phase 2.  A growing sense that change is possible.
  • Phase 3.  A period of rebuilding a new life.
  • Phase 4.  The cementing of fresh commitments that reflect the young person's new interests, aspirations and values.

Dr Robinson claims that his research is the first to look at the Quarter Life Crisis phenomenon from a ‘solid, empirical angle based on data rather than speculation.’

The phenomenon which, just like its older sibling the ‘Mid Life Crisis’, is characterised by symptoms such as insecurities, disappointments, loneliness and depression.

Survey results

According to the popular trading and advertising website Gumtree.com:

  • 86% of the 1,100 young people questioned admitted feeling under pressure to succeed in their relationships, finances and jobs before hitting 30.
  • 2 in 5 had money worries saying they did not earn enough.
  • 32% felt under pressure to marry and have children by the age of 30
  • 6% were planning to emigrate
  • 21% wanted a complete career change

Damian Barr, author of the book Get it Together: A Guide to Surviving Your Quarterlife Crisis, explains why there are a growing number of 25 year olds experiencing pressures and demands previously felt by those in their 40’s:

‘Being twentysomething now is scary – fighting millions of other graduates for your first job, struggling to raise a mortgage deposit and finding time to juggle all your relationships.’

"We have the misfortune to be catapulted into a perilous property market. We're earning more and spending more than ever. We're getting into debt to finance our degrees, careers and accommodation."

The Depression Alliance estimates that one third of twentysomethings feel depressed.

The Positive side

But its not all bad news. Although the crisis lasts on average for two years, Dr Robinson maintains that it can be a positive experience, a catalyst for constructive change and eventually laying the foundations for a new life:

"The results will help reassure those who are experiencing this transition that it is a commonly experienced part of early adult life, and that a proven pattern of positive change results from it," said Robinson.

Dr Robinson also suggests that experiencing a ‘quarter-life crisis’ reduces your risk of suffering a proper mid-life crisis later on.

"If you store up the problems until later life, it will be much worse as the inertia in later life is greater," he says.

According to the study 80 per cent of the interviewees looked back on their crises positively.

What kind of people does a Quarter Life Crisis affect?

Many different types of people can suffer this phenomenon, however some characteristics have been identified that can make some more likely than others. People more commonly thought to experience QLC are:

  • Those who want to succeed conventionally
  • Those who have a strong idealism about what their life should be like
  • Those who plan out what they want to achieve by the time they are a certain age -thus leaving them disappointed if they reach that age and it hasn’t happened e.g. marriage, children.

It is important for doctors, psychologists, clinicians and therapists to recognise the Quarter Life Crisis as a genuine state of being. Rather than try and medicate it away, they must play a supporting role to help navigate individuals through this potentially problematic period in their life. This could prevent it leading to something more serious such as loneliness, depression or other mental health problems.


Relevant products

For our depression guide please see here:

Your rating: None Average: 10 (1 vote)