Quarter-life crisis

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In popular psychology, a quarter-life crisis is an existential crisis involving anxiety and sorrow over the direction and quality of one's life which is most commonly experienced in a period ranging from a person's early twenties up to their mid-thirties[1][2] (although a quarter-life crisis can begin as early as 18).[3] It is defined by clinical psychologist Alex Fowke as "a period of insecurity, doubt and disappointment surrounding your career, relationships and financial situation".[3]


According to Meredith Goldstein of The Boston Globe, the quarter-life crisis occurs in one's twenties, usually after entering the "real world" (i.e., after graduating from college, after moving out of the family home, or both).[4] German psychologist Erik Erikson, who proposed eight crises that humans face during their development, proposed the existence of a life crisis occurring at this age. The conflict he associated with young adulthood is the Intimacy vs. Isolation crisis. According to Erikson, after establishing a personal identity in adolescence, young adults seek to form intense, usually romantic relationships with other people.[5]

Common symptoms of a quarter-life crisis are often feelings of being "lost, scared, lonely or confused" about what steps to take in early adulthood.[6] Studies have shown that unemployment and choosing a career path is a major cause of stress and anxiety in young adults. Early stages of one living on their own for the first time and learning to cope without parental help can also induce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Re-evaluation of one's close personal relationships can also be a factor, with sufferers feeling they have outgrown their partner or believing others may be more suitable for them.

Recently, millennials have occasionally been referred to as the Boomerang Generation or Peter Pan Generation, because of the members' perceived penchant for delaying some rites of passage into adulthood for longer periods than previous generations. These labels were also a reference to a trend toward members returning home after college or living with their parents for longer periods than previous generations.[7] These tendencies can be explained by changes in external social factors rather than characteristics intrinsic to millennials (e.g., higher cost of living and higher levels of student loan debt in the US among millennials when compared to earlier generations can make it more difficult for young adults to achieve traditional markers of independence such as marriage, home ownership or investing).[8][9]

In film[edit]

The notion of the quarter-life crisis is explored by the 1967 film The Graduate, one of the first film depictions of this issue. Other notable films that also do so are Bright Lights, Big City; The Paper Chase; St. Elmo's Fire; How to Be; Reality Bites; Garden State; Accepted; Ghost World; High Fidelity; (500) Days of Summer; Lost in Translation; Silver Linings Playbook; Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Amélie; and Shaun of the Dead; as well as the musical Avenue Q, in the television show The Office, and the HBO television series Girls. The 2008 web series Quarterlife was so named for the phenomenon. Other movies exploring the quarter-life crisis include: Tiny Furniture, The Puffy Chair, Fight Club, Stranger than Fiction, Greenberg, Frances Ha and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A 2014 comedy directed by Lynn Shelton titled Laggies delves into the complexities of a quarter-life crisis.[10] The 2nd season of 2021's Cubicles revolved majorly on quarter life crisis psychology, its symptoms, effects and ways to deal with them.

In music[edit]

The 2003 John Mayer single "Why Georgia" explores the concept of a quarter-life crisis. The song was based upon John Mayer's experiences during this age period, when he moved to Georgia.[11]

The 1975 Fleetwood Mac song "Landslide", written by Stevie Nicks in her late twenties, explores many of the self-doubts and fears of the quarter-life crisis, at a time when Nicks professed to be uncertain about her musical career and her romantic life.[12]

English indie rock band Spector's song "True Love (For Now)", the opening track to their 2012 album Enjoy It While It Lasts, references a quarter-life crisis.

"20 Something", the final track on SZA's 2017 album Ctrl, delves into the many insecurities she experienced in her twenties, both personal and professional, and the urgency she felt to make the most of her life before entering into mature adulthood.[13]

In the album "Pep Talks" by Judah & the Lion, lead single "Quarter-Life Crisis" is about the ensuing rootlessness and insecurity that Akers, band's lead vocalist, felt during his twenties, caused by loss of his aunt and his parents' divorce.[14]

The 2020 released EP "Young Life Crisis" by UPSAHL is about a breakup, lost friendships and a canceled tour, all during the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainness around her life.[15]

The 2022 song "Quarter Life Crisis" (stylized in all-caps for the track listing as "QUARTER LIFE CRISIS"), by singer-songwriter Taylor Bickett, addresses this topic through the eyes of its twenty-three year old subject[16] who lists many aspects common to the central motif of young adult anxiety from a female perspective.

On 10 August 2023, British singer Baby Queen, announced her debut album titled "Quarter Life Crisis". It was released on 6 October 2023. The albums lead singles are portrayed by "Dream Girl", "We Can Be Anything" and for the deluxe edition "All The Things" and six of her other songs that were featured in the Netflix series based on the graphic novel, Heartstopper. Bella stated in an interview, "This album tells the story of my journey through my early 20s – leaving my childhood and my adolescence behind but never really losing my childlike wonder and never quite growing up. The songs are all facets of what early adulthood has been like for me while discovering new parts of myself, my sexuality, my past and my place in this world." She also added, "I really want this album to leave people feeling hopeful, because there is so much beauty to live through and look forward to and it truly is magical and extraordinary to be alive and to have the very short opportunity to experience every emotion imaginable."[17] To support the album's release, Baby Queen also announced a headline tour titled "The Quarter Life Crisis Tour" throughout November 2023.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Quarterlife crisis". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  2. ^ Jessica Girdwain (12 March 2013). "How to Survive a Quarter-Life Crisis". SELF.
  3. ^ a b "The age you're most likely to have a quarter-life crisis". The Independent. Rachel Hosie. 15 November 2017. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  4. ^ Goldstein, Meredith (8 September 2004). "The quarter-life crisis". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 5 September 2007.
  5. ^ Erikson, Erik H. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: W. W. Norton.
  6. ^ Dawodu, Micheal (29 August 2020). "Overcoming Quarter Life Crisis As a Nigerian". insight.ng. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  7. ^ Shaputis, Kathleen (2003). The Crowded Nest Syndrome : Surviving the Return of Adult Children. Olympia: Clutter Fairy. ISBN 0972672702.
  8. ^ Tom Anderson. Debt-Locked: Student Loans Force Millennials to Delay Life Milestones NBC News.com, accessed 3 April 2018
  9. ^ Lou Carlozo (9 May 2016). Student Loan Debt: The Invisible, Incredible Drain on Investment. US News & World Report, accessed 3 April 2018
  10. ^ Scott, A. O. (23 October 2014). "Some People Persist in Taking an Endless Timeout From Adult Life". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "Berklee Today".
  12. ^ "Landslide by Fleetwood Mac Songfacts".
  13. ^ "20 Something, SZA". Genius Media Group, Inc.
  14. ^ "Quarter-life Triumph by Judah & the Lion on Billboard". Billboard.
  15. ^ "INTERVIEW: UPSAHL releases new EP 'Young Life Crisis': "This EP Is the most honest and vulnerable I've gotten with any of my songs...I'm hoping people relate to it in some way, shape or form."".
  16. ^ "Taylor Bickett – QUARTER LIFE CRISIS Lyrics". Genius Lyrics. 14 October 2022. Retrieved 12 May 2023.
  17. ^ Dunworth, Liberty (10 August 2023). "Baby Queen announces debut album 'Quarter Life Crisis' and new tour dates". NME. Retrieved 27 August 2023.

Further reading[edit]

  • Barr, Damian. Get It Together: A Guide to Surviving Your Quarterlife Crisis. Hodder & Stoughton Paperbacks, 2004. ISBN 0-340-82903-6.
  • Hassler, Christine. 20-Something, 20-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman's Guide to Balance and Direction. New World Library, 2005. ISBN 978-1-57731-476-9.
  • Hassler, Christine. 20-Something Manifesto: Quarter-Lifers Speak Out About Who They Are, What They Want, and How to Get It. New World Library, 2008. ISBN 978-1-57731-595-7.
  • Pollak, Lindsey. Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World. Collins Business, 2007. ISBN 0-06-114259-X.
  • Robbins, Alexandra. Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis: Advice from Twentysomethings Who Have Been There and Survived. Perigee, 2004. ISBN 978-0-399-53038-8.
  • Robbins, Alexandra; Wilner, Abby. Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties. Tarcher, 2001. ISBN 1-58542-106-5.
  • Wilner, Abby; Stocker, Catherine. Quarterlifer's Companion: How to Get on the Right Career Path, Control Your Finances, and Find the Support Network You Need to Thrive. McGraw-Hill, 2004. ISBN 978-0-07-145015-7.

External links[edit]