The New Middle Age Is 37. Here’s How to Make It Awesome.
Thirty-seven is the actual middle age of men in America today. We surveyed hundreds of 37-year-olds about what defines this moment—and help prepare them for the next.
By Max Berlinger and Ben Paynter
Apr 13, 2021
This article is a repost which originally appeared on MEN’s HEALTH
Edited for content
A WHILE BACK, over lunch with a friend—me, salad; he, cheeseburger— I yammered on about my fitness kick. Peloton and 10,000 steps a day. Intermittent fasting and meditating ten minutes every morning. Cold showers and breathing exercises. The works.
He put his hand on mine and said, “Max. You know that, even if you do all this, you’re still going to die, right?” Those words landed like a punch to the gut. What the hell is he talking about death for? I thought. I’m still a kid.
Spoiler alert . . . I’m not. I was 37, which certainly isn’t one foot in the grave. But I made an unnerving discovery: Statistically speaking, 37 is the median age of men in America right now, and also almost halfway to the end of the average man’s life expectancy, which is 76. Meaning a whole lot of guys happen to be in the same boat as I am: midway between cradle and grave. If we’re lucky.
Middle age is a nebulous term—the Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the period of your life, usually considered to be from about 45 to 60, when you are no longer young, but are not yet old.”
But do the math and your life’s mid-point hits way sooner than you probably think. As a guy with some things to make up for over the past couple decades, I feel a little behind. (As it happened, I spent most of that mathematically significant 37th year at home, staring at the walls, as a pandemic upended every norm of everyday life.) Turns out, plenty of truly middle-aged men are at crossroads of their own. For this issue, Men’s Health surveyed a nationally representative sample of guys my exact age to learn about their fears and anxieties.
As a whole, it’s a portrait of men who are conflicted, and I recognize myself in many of the responses. Men who feel, on average, good but have a sense that there’s more to life, if only they could figure out how to access it. That, just maybe, they’re in the prime of their life but they don’t know how to take advantage of it— or, more crucially, appreciate it as it’s happening—or how to extend it.
The survey shows that men value time over money, but it wasn’t a landslide. Which is strange, because if our days are getting scarcer, you would think that each should hold more value. I’ve learned that the hard way over the past few years. My 20s were wonderful, but some nights were a boozy blur. Then some nights turned into most nights and my 20s turned into my 30s.
At a certain point I got tired of waking up feeling like shit, with a phone full of missed calls and pissed-off texts and only a hazy half-memory of what I did to deserve them. So at age 33, I took the painful, scary step of getting sober.