Everybody has to peak sometime. We’re all vaguely aware of this. The problem is that science has taken that vague “meh” of life’s slide and is increasingly converting it into a series of discrete data about when exactly we will run out of juice in this or that sphere of life - from sex to intelligence to muscle mass. And, as if you weren’t already choked by the anxiety of all of those maxima, there are also the minima to make you feel depressed - such as research into “the age at which you’ll feel the most depressed”. This week, a study concluded that 35 is the age at which men are at their loneliest , with 9 per cent of males at that age saying they have no regular friends. To navigate this busy junction of constantly departing potentials, we have developed this guide to the key ages.
- 8: Peak language
Our capacity to learn a second language to a good level is much more static than we have been led to believe. It’s just that our capacity to do so with total fluency and no accent starts to ebb sharply after age eight .
- 20-23: Female peak attractiveness
Christian Rudder, founder of OKCupid, parsed the data goldmine of his site to come up with a few home truths on who is attractive to whom. While women wanted partners slightly older than them before they’re 30 and ones slightly younger after, men of every age homed in ruthlessly on the female fertility-max: 20-23 .
- 25: Peak creativity
Researchers from Stockholm and Paris tested volunteers aged four to 91 for their ability to think up random sequences of coin-tosses. The peak came at 25 . Whether you consider a lengthy random coin-toss sequence to be the equivalent of Mahler is another question, that possibly depends on your views on Mahler.
- 31: Peak chess
Published in the geroscience journal Age, by comparing statistics of 96 Grandmasters at similar career phases, researchers looking into cognitive decline were able to say that chess players peak at the age of 31 .
38 - Peak contentment
Three years after being lonely, six before becoming depressed, Britons feel most content with their lives at the age of 38 . Drilling down into the data, life-partnering made a huge difference: those who were married suggested maximum contentment came at 42, while those who weren’t preferred to be 27.
- 44: Peak depression
The classic midlife crisis loomed out of a 2008 survey . Our declining powers depress all of us, and it doesn’t matter who you are. Two million people were surveyed in one of the largest mental health scans ever undertaken. For men, the peak was closer to 50, while for women it was a depressing 40.
- 59: Peak Nobel
Despite humanity’s inevitable chess ability sag, the age at which the average Nobel laureate gets their gong is pretty late. If yours hasn’t arrived yet, don’t panic, there’s still time.