Are Ireland's 40-somethings the country's happiest?
Andrea Smith speaks to author Claudia Caroll, Dave Furney and Pauline Sargent about life in their forties...
So life begins at 40, eh? Not any more apparently, according to new research that suggests people are actually happiest at 45.
This news might trouble those in their late 30s who thought they were just about to enter the magical zone, but for me, a middle-aged aul wan of 45, it was great news.
I'd agree that 45 is a golden age, because while I may be single, childless, fat and often broke, I've never felt better and been more confident.
The YouGov survey of 2,000 adults aged between 25 and 65 was carried out for British dating agency, Love Begins, and it found that over-45s are happier in their relationships, are more content with life, and feel more in touch with the world.
We spoke to three 45-year-olds to see if they agreed with the findings of the survey, or whether they pine for the carefree days of their 20s and 30s.
Claudia Carroll is a best-selling author from Dublin. The Fair City actress-turned-author's 11th book, Love Me Or Leave Me, is out now, and it's about a "divorce hotel", where guests check in married and check out single.
"I was in denial about turning 40, but now I think it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I've never been happier. It's a great decade, because you still feel young and have your health and energy, please God, but you know where you're at and what you want out of life, and hopefully you're happy and fulfilled with that.
"If you are lucky to have friends and family close to you in your 40s, that's a big boon, and I'm delighted that I still have both of my parents, Anne and Claude. My mum had an operation in hospital earlier this year, but she's over it now and is recovering really well. She's my best friend, and I know how lucky and blessed I am to have her around.
"I'm lucky that I've always been happy and fulfilled in my career. When I was acting, I loved it, and then I fell in love with writing. I miss the people though, as I'm a very sociable person, and writing can be solitary. So you have to make a conscious effort to meet people, or you could find yourself talking to the wall and writing letters to the papers.
"When it comes to romance, I'm single and I don't care any more, I think I'd rather have a gin and tonic! Never say never though, and of course I'm open to meeting someone lovely, but I've realised at this age that I'd infinitely prefer to be on my own than be with a messer.
"Life definitely gets easier as you get older, as you've weeded out the toxic people and energy vampires who drain you, and have surrounded yourself with your true, loyal, amazing fabulous pals. You don't put up with the things you put up with when you were younger, as you think, 'That's just not good enough and I'm not tolerating it.' I used to be a terrible worrier, but now I don't sweat the small things. I'm much better at controlling my worrying now, and crossing bridges when I come to them, because there's definitely a wisdom that comes with age.
"As life goes on, I think you come to realise that age is just a number and you can reinvent yourself at any age. My cousin is climbing Kilimanjaro at 76, and that's what I want to be doing when I'm her age."
Dave is a company MD, and is married to Áine. They have two children, Louis (17) and Ruby (13).
"In my mid-40s, I would describe myself as having the body of a 19-year-old, trapped in the hairline of a 50-year-old man.
"I have a vibrant social life, great family and friends, coupled to a desire to crack unicycling and play the guitar. There are many different attributes to happiness in your 20s and 30s, and I'm more content and fulfilled now and have a very happy life. I'm also ready for the next chapter.
"Waking up every morning contributes to happiness, and moulding my children into mini-mes – unsuccessfully I might add. As a father, I am definitely more relaxed than I was in my 30s and am enjoying watching their lives take shape. "At this age, I've discovered that good friends are invaluable and, thankfully, I have some really great ones. I have also stopped judging people on first impressions, and am more prepared to be influenced.
"I've learned that eye contact is paramount and cash is king. If I could give my younger self any advice, it would be this: Travel your ass off and learn to play guitar earlier when your fingers are more compliant."
‘What children want most is time – not material things’
Pauline Sargent is the owner of social media marketing company, www.SocialZavvy.ie, and founder of www.DigiWomen.ie. She is married to James and has two sons, Woody, 13, and Alfie, 5.
“My 20s were fantastic because I was young and carefree, and I travelled a lot and got to meet some fantastic people. I learnt that not everyone lives the same way as I do, and that's okay. Meeting so many people has helped me to appreciate that we all may live our lives differently and have different types of family set-ups, but essentially we're the same. We all want to be loved and we all need someone.
“I learnt to deal with sickness and grief in my 30s. I lost my mother, father-in-law and mother-in-law, as well as miscarrying two babies. Now that I'm in my forties, I have learnt that experiences can define you. You can wallow in grief, or learn to live a good life in honour of those who didn't get to live as long as they would have liked.
“I went back to college in my 30s and got a degree in business management. Starting my own business in a recession and at the age of 42 was probably not one of my better ideas, but I love it. I never thought when I was younger that I could run a business, so my ambition now is to be a very successful business owner who helps to improve people's lives.
“Right now, I'm fulfilled and happy. I have a wonderful husband, a great family and the best of friends. I no longer feel the need to please everyone, and am learning that it's okay to say no.
“As a mother, I may be physically more tired, but understand better that what children want most is your time, rather than material things. They want to snuggle up to you and have face-to-face time, whether it's playing cards, doing jigsaws, kicking a ball or simply reading books.
“On the health front, a recent diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes has made me reconsider my eating habits and fitness levels. I am now working with a nutritionist and a fitness expert to help me stay on track.
“If I could give my younger self any advice, it would be to stop worrying about what other people think. We all have our own baggage to carry in life, some more than others, but it's how we carry it that matters most.”
1. That having lines on my face, a spare tyre and a bum that went south are testaments to being alive. Some of the people I went to school with didn’t make it this far, and would be extremely grateful to be able to walk around in my wrinkly, fat body today.
2. That nobody really cares about what I’m wearing or judging my career progress, because everyone is too busy fretting over how they’re doing themselves.
3. That a warm smile and genuine interest in someone will leave a far more lasting impression than what I have achieved or how I look. This also applies to sex and dating.
4. That the best friends were not necessarily those I could drink tequila shots with at 1 am in a bar, but those who took the time to listen to me when I was worried.
5. That still having my lovely parents around and well is the biggest gift I could receive, when so many of my friends lost theirs too early.
6. That determination, charm and a lot of self-belief can be more important than talent when it comes to getting ahead, as is the ability to keep smiling through disappointment and getting back up on the horse again.
7. That everyone gets something – the banging body, great partner, cute kids, big house or rocking career - but nobody gets the complete fairytale. The secret is making the best of the hand you’ve been given.
8. That the queen bees who worked my last nerve at school may possibly just have mastered the act of appearing confident earlier than I did. And those who were bullies deserve my sympathy, because they possibly went home to a difficult situation every day.
9. That even the people in charge are only muddling through, and we have to allow for the fact that we, and they, are all only human and fallible at the end of the day.
10. That you’ll never be lonely or feel unloved if you have a dog.