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Why 35 is officially the most miserable age for men. . .

As if life wasn't tough enough already for thirty-something Irish males, they can now expect their mid-life crisis to arrive 10 years ahead of schedule.

New research claims that 35 is now the "most miserable" age a man can be, challenging the traditional belief that the crushing 'What Have I Done With My Life?' moment only hits men in their mid-40s.

A study commissioned by the UK relationship counselling service Relate found that many 35-year-olds are now exhibiting the symptoms popularly associated with middle-aged men who suddenly start riding motorbikes and generally losing the run of themselves.

This early onset feeling of self-doubt, restlessness and fear of impending decrepitude is otherwise known as a "midlife thrisis".

Its victims include celebrities like Jamie Oliver, the 35-year-old chef who has recently taken to breaking down in tears during interviews and 36-year-old Robbie Williams, who has abruptly got married and rejoined Take That in the last six months.

The award winning chef and food campaigner Jamie Oliver, who turned 35 this summer and now has four young children, might be expected to be happy and secure.

But it's clear from his recent interviews, including one in which he wailed "there's still lots of people who don't like me. No one understands me, no one" that Jamie may be having a little thrisis of his own.

Williams has owned up to having an "early midlife crisis" in the past, saying he coped by "shaving my head, getting an earring and riding fast motorbikes at the track to appear wind-swept and interesting".

The Take That star can at least look to his large personal fortune for comfort. For mere mortals, the accelerated onset of middle-aged angst is being blamed, largely, on the economy.

The survey claims that the current generation of male, thirty-something Baby Gloomers are facing a sudden and unexpected deluge of torments that they may not be equipped to deal with.

It is a toxic mix of job-insecurity, isolation and emotional uncertainty.

For thirty-something men who came of age during the easy times of an unprecedented boom, the sudden change in fortunes is leading to a plague of 'oh-what's-the-point?' self-absorption.

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And the Relate study warns that the real killer is the widespread assumption, fuelled by the media and our political and business leaders, that things are not going to get better any time soon.

Traditionally a man's thirties were the time for him to enjoy the fruits of his labours, in between his hardworking twenties and the inevitable slowing up and settling down period of his forties.

This decade of your life has, in the past, bought confidence, rewards for ambition and hard work and the sexual maturity to make the most of relationships.

For Irish men such as Anthony, a 35-year-old who was working as a sub-contractor in the building trade, the promise of the good-life in this decade has not been fulfilled.

Anthony, who asked that we did not use his full name, says "mid-life crisis" doesn't really cover what he and many of his friends are now dealing with.

"Like a lot of guys my age, I was working hard, making good money, thinking about the future. Not exactly making big plans because I was probably too busy enjoying myself, but I was confident that things were working out fine" he says.

"The construction industry just shut down pretty much overnight. I've managed to find a couple of jobs here and there since and I'm currently re-training, but it's hard."

Anthony's "few nights out" with his friends are dominated by talk about the difficult present and the uncertain future.

"It gets you down because most of my friends would be in the same boat. They are in their mid-thirties, they are struggling and it's like every time you turn on the radio or the six o'clock news there's more bad news.

"It's tough for lads because we were all brought up to work, look after our families, build a future. You can end up feeling pretty useless, like there's nothing for you to work towards.

"This should have been a good time for us, we worked hard to enjoy a bit of life, it's not working out that way".

Colin Carroll is a 37-year-old, solicitor and "adventurer" from Fermoy, Co Cork, who has spent much of his thirties undertaking a series of escapades, from biking across South America and taking part in Sumo wrestling for a TV project to organising his own 'Paddy Games' sports festival in Cork.

And Colin agrees that 35 is a big watershed for Irish men.

"When you get to 35, you really start thinking about the future because you are still young enough to achieve things but you are starting to knock on the door of middle age," he says.

"You suddenly realise you are 10 years way from 45, a pot belly and being too old to try anything new," he says.

"That puts you in a rush to do something before you hit 40, climb that mountain or take risks while you can still handle yourself.

"Time really speeds up when you hit your mid-thirties, you are supposed to be old enough to have figured out what you want to do and have your plans made but you still feel that restlessness, that you should still be out there trying new things.

"On the one hand, you are at an age where people take you seriously, on the other, you may not be that sure of yourself at all and you are still young enough to act silly and get away with it".

Colin says that 35 or over is a dangerous age for guys who have not yet settled down in a long-term relationship.

"It's weird because at my age, the girls I really fancy are usually way out of my league and the girls I should fancy are not fun enough," he says.

"You could be chatting up at a girl in her mid-20s and she's thinking 'get lost, granddad' but the women your own age might be too serious and looking for a husband."

Colin has his own recipe for dealing with the dreaded "thrisis" -- he's off on another adventure this month, taking a bike by ferry from Cork to Spain and then travelling down to North Africa to bike alone across the Sahara into the New Year.

'I'm not ready to settle down yet, it's a bit mad and maybe a bit risky but I want to do this while I can still handle myself," he says.

Colin's next big adventure might seem like the classic case of a guy acting out a mid-life crisis -- even if he is still a bit away from his fortieth. But it fits with the hypothesis that 35 is now the new 45 for a lot of men.

However, if that really is the case, then at what age can men finally expect to find a bit of peace and contentment?

The current research tells us that a man will be at his happiest as he approaches his 74th birthday. It's apparently the time when wisdom and experience finally kicks in, when a man is finally let in on the punch line of life's long joke.

Little wonder, then, that 35-year-olds are so unhappy. They are not even halfway to attaining true enlightenment and spiritual peace.

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