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Late-Life Crisis Occurs in People Over 60, Psychologists Say

Update Date: Apr 13, 2013 01:33 AM EDT

Approximately one-third of people in their sixties go through a "late-life crisis," British psychologists suggest.

Nearly 300 people aged 60 and over in the UK completed an online survey revealing that 33 percent went through a late-life crisis. Bereavement was the most common trigger, followed by personal illness or injury.

Researchers from Greenwich University and Sussex University carried out the poll and also interviewed 20 of the poll participants.

The poll showed those who reported a "crisis" had all experienced two or more stressful events that had usually affected their health or someone else's. This showed that the people at this age became more aware of their frailty and mortality, Dr. Oliver Robinson of the University of Greenwich, told the British Psychological Society conference.

However, a person's response to their experiences appeared to be determined by how they had viewed life, according to BBC News.

One in five participants said their views on life were unchanged. One in three appeared to be heading in a "downward spiral" avoiding making plans to avoid being disappointed

"I have another 20-odd years yet and I fully intend to live it, not just exist," said TJ, one of the more positive surveyors.  

Others were not so enthusiastic about the years to come.

"It's coming to terms, I think, with the reality of what life is now. And it's hard," said Em, another participant.

Those who felt negative often reported becoming withdrawn and increasingly isolated.

"The findings suggest that the 60-69 decade is a key time for developmental crisis," Dr. Robinson said.

"For the vast majority, it's a good decade. But for a considerable minority - up to a third - it is not."

"People realize that they can't carry on as before," Robinson pointed out.

He said people who are experiencing a mid-life crisis are concerned about where they have gotten to in life and what their finances are, the reason behind this "later-life crisis" is different.

"It seems that when loss-inducing events occur together or in close proximity in time, a person's capacity to cope in their sixties is overwhelmed and a later-life crisis is precipitated."

"By better understanding such crisis episodes, psychologists are well placed to understand mental health problems in this age group, which may well be affected by the events of a crisis."

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