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Women at the crossroads : a literature review of the mental health risks facing women in mid-life

This review focuses upon women aged 45-60: an under-researched subgroup of the adult female population. Women in mid-life occupy a unique position in the lifespan at the intersection of a number of age-related and lifelong pathways. The lives of these women can be distinguished from those of both older and younger women along a number of important dimensions including their family and working lives, economic situation, general health, and the complexity of their roles both inside and outside the home. Personal and economic changes are common at mid-life as are physical changes; all have particular and distinct implications for women’s emotional and psychological health. The aim of this review is to address a knowledge deficit. Though some evidence exists about the extent of psychological distress in women aged 45-60, far less has been gathered about the causes of such difficulties or the challenges to mental health associated with mid-life experience. The lifespan is routinely conceived as containing a number of discrete stages: women’s lives are characterised by experiences that have overlapping threads and meanings and these combine with age-related issues in ways that warrant focused attention. This review draws evidence from a range of sources to identify the key parameters of mid-life women’s lives. These include: the areas and types of risk to their mental health from a range of sources, the extent of psychological distress, and the ways in which research and policy could reduce the challenges that commonly face women in mid-life and alleviate or prevent mental ill health. It should be noted at the outset that the age group 45-60 years does not map perfectly on to the existing field of research: researchers and national statisticians punctuate the life span in whatever ways they see fit. So, although we have tried to locate research which matches the age span of interest, inevitably we also draw upon the findings of research which only offers a close approximation. 

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Key Information

Type of Reference
Pennell initiative for women's health/the mental health foundation
Resource Database
Publication Year
Reprint Edition
Mental Health Foundation