Since one of our generation’s most troubled divas Amy Winehouse was found dead in her Camden apartment, international News channels exploded with talk of the 27 Club: the macabre trend of world famous musicians dying at this age. Unable to keep up with her lifestyle, much like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison who all died at the same age, Amy appeared to have burnt out.
But 27 Club is not just a dark twist of fate reserved for the rich and infamous. Scientific research proves that twenty-seven is a hard year for all of us. No longer in our freedom years and racing towards our thirties, this in-between age often brings with it confidence crisis’s, soul-searching and discomforting change.
Certainly as I approach the dusk of my 26th year, I wonder how the hell I got here. I’m terrified of successful people born in the Nineties (they’re CHILDREN), I nervously make Stalin-esque five year ‘life goal’ plans or just sit in bathrooms giving pep talks to mirrors. I’m right to be worried. If this transition, dubbed the ‘quarter-life crisis’, is not handled properly it can lead to disastrous results: it is no coincidence that the peak decade for suicides is the twenties.
Why? The most obvious change is a medical one. Twenty-seven signals the start of old age. According to research done at the University of Virginia, our mental abilities peak at twenty-two and then show considerable decline from twenty-seven onwards. Professor Salthouse, who lead the study, found that our speed of thought, reasoning and visual puzzle-solving ability all begin to deteriorate at this point. We simply can’t keep up with those a few years younger.
Mental decline is matched by a physical one. Twenty-six is statistically our physical peak. In fact, the average age to break a world record is 26.1. A recent study of over a 1000 athletes at National Institute of Sport, Performance and Expertise in France, showed that past twenty-six there is an irreversible downturn in our abilities. Unless you like swimming, then you peaked at twenty-one.
These two physical factors blend with the social malaise of being an inbe-twenty (you see what I did there)? These are the years of the quarter-life crisis with the ill-fated twenty-seven in the eye of the storm. ‘The key risk age group is the twenties,’ explains Dr Oliver Robinson at the University of Greenwich who has recently published a study into the phenomenon of the ‘quarter life crisis’.
“The problem is you may have reached your physical and mental peak before twenty-seven and have adult responsibilities but you’re not completely socially and emotionally mature. That sense of dissonance can be quite anxiety provoking. It’s the age of the adult-child. The combination of a fierce job market, a rise in multiple part-time jobs, bigger student debt and soaring living costs is making our twenties more difficult.
On average, we won’t own a house until we’re thirty-eight. Around 60% will rely on our parents financially until we’re forty. With the longest working week in the EU, the quarter-life sufferer has less time to find meaningful relationships and even if we do, a third of us are still living with Mum and Dad, so good luck making that go anywhere. Let’s face it, 27 is also a career milestone. After six years, the novelty of being a ‘proper’ adult in the working world, with your own business card and email signature, wears thin. At 27, you’re in for the long haul. Added to this, we’ve got to maintain a public persona of successful fabulousness via Facebook and Twitter.
For me, the signs that the big ‘two seven’ is looming on the horizon have begun: my Young Person’s Rail Card runs out in a few weeks. But I doubt I’ll go with a rock’n’roll bang like the Club 27 lot. I can’t deal with the hangovers and I can’t afford it.