59 years, eight months and two weeks: That's the age we stop feeling young, says Government pollBritons believe that old age begins at 59 years, two months and two weeksThe Department for Work and Pensions commissioned the poll
15:07 GMT, 1 January 2013
Middle-aged: It's been said that life begins at 40, but it might be more accurate to say that mid-life begins at 40 according to a Government poll
It’s been said, somewhat optimistically, that life begins at 40. Now it seems a more accurate adage might read: Mid-life begins at 40.
Or to be precise, according to a study which reveals general attitudes to youth and ageing, the age at which we should stop calling ourselves young is 40 years, eight months and two weeks.
And, rather worryingly, the Britons surveyed reckon old age begins when people reach the age of 59 years, two months and two weeks.
The poll, for the Department for Work and Pensions, spoke to 2,171 people aged 16 or over and uncovered stark variations in the views of men and women and different age groups.
Men say being young stops at 38 and a half. For women the cut-off is delayed until 42 years, nine months and three months.
Old age, according to women, begins at 60 years, four months and two weeks.
But for men, it is much earlier – at 58.
The gap may be down to men placing more emphasis on diminishing strength as a mark of ageing, or because women tend to live longer.
As you might expect, the definition of old age goes back in later life. Under-50s said it begins at 46 years and nine months. For those age 50-plus, old age starts at 62 years, seven months and two weeks.
While 16- to 24-year-olds said being young ends at 32, for those aged 80-plus the answer was 52.
This is not far short of when the youngest group said old age begins – 54.
The Department for Work and Pensions said ‘the disparity in perceptions’ showed ‘the potential for age stereotypes to be applied in very inconsistent ways’.
Old age: Britons believe that old age begins at the age of 59 years, two months and two weeks according to a Government poll (file picture)
Class and income may also be factors. The unemployed said being young ends nine years earlier than those with full time jobs.
People who lived in council houses tended to believe old age started five years earlier than those who owned their home outright.
Ros Altmann of over-50s group Saga said: ‘These surveys show that the older you get, the later you think old age begins.
‘What is happening is that people are suddenly getting to an age and thinking: no, I’m not old actually. I might have thought I would feel old at this age, but I do not.
‘This survey also shows there is significant age discrimination and outdated attitudes among younger people – and that is worrying.
‘Youngsters tend to think people who are older are not up to much. It’s just not true.’