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Midlife Crisis and Its Effect on Women’s Stress

Women in their middle years are at a crossroads in their developmental histories and psychological dispensations not only due to lack of an image that represents their position in the society, but also as a result of their own vulnerability to a whole range of unique stressors associated with the challenges of daily living (Darling, Coccia, & Senatore, 2012). Owing to their unique challenges, women in midlife are of special interest to social workers and other providers of human services in community settings. This paper aims to focus on the psychological problem of stress among this section of the population, its effects on women, and how it can be solved.

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In their seminal work on women in midlife, Darling et al (2012) argue that various forms of stressors affect women upon reaching their middle years, leading to a substantial decline in life satisfaction and overall health. These stressors include substantial shifts related to women’s developmental transitions, multiple life challenges, increases in body weight, as well as unexpected family shifts due to varied role expectations. As postulated by these authors, the mentioned stressors adversely affect the women’s physiological behaviors and facilitate the onset of psychological symptoms, eventually leading to shifts in coping mechanisms including sleep and physical activity patterns.

Available literature shows that changing and undefined roles may lead women in their middle years to experience “confusion and frustration with respect to their individual perceptions and expectations of themselves, their current life situations and their future” (Darling et al., 2012 p. 31-32). Such stressful events lead to psychological distress and lower satisfaction with life across all racial and ethnic groups, often resulting to what is commonly referred to as midlife crisis. The situation for midlife women is worsened by the onset of menopause, which brings profound physiological and hormonal shifts in the body and triggers upsetting symptoms, including hot flashes and shifts in sleep patterns. These changes predispose women in midlife to a deficiency in their coping mechanisms, implying that such women are unable to initiate cognitive and behavioral efforts necessary in restoring emotional balance and resolving the challenges occasioned by stressful life events (Darling et al., 2012).

The above exposition explains why a considerable proportion of women in their middle years are often engulfed in stress, leading to low quality of life and exhibition of antisocial behaviors such as child abuse, excessive drinking, and suicide ideation (Darling et al., 2012). Drawing from this line of thought, it can also be argued that the high incidences of divorce during the middle years is a direct consequence of stressful life events experienced during this phase of life.

Overall, the potential solution for this psychological problem is to engage midlife women in community-based social support groups, with the view to empowering and educating them on how to deal with stress during this phase of life. Women need to be educated on how to deal with changes in family roles and how to deal with menopausal problems when they arise. Women in their middle years also need to be empowered financially and materially to deal with life challenges when they present, hence the need for the establishment of community-based social support systems specifically targeted at this group of the population. Such systems, in my view, will facilitate positive life satisfaction by enhancing the resilience of these women and serving as defensive umbrellas in the face of negative life experiences.


Darling, C.A., Coccia, C., & Senatore, N. (2012). Women in midlife: Stress, health and life satisfaction. Stress and Health, 28(1), 31-40.

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