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Approaching 30: Understanding The Quarter-life Crisis

18 Aug 2023 2 min read
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Ruby Liu MY

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Psychology in everyday life
Mental health 101
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quarter-life crisis pantherchan

“Ending the journey of youth, yet unable to find a way to chase

Who doesn't yearn for progress, to keep up the pace? 

In a year of scarcity, worries stretch long in sight

Even surviving becomes a brave fight.”

“Quarter-life Crisis” by Panther Chan

Panther Chan's latest song, "Quarter-life Crisis," resonates with numerous individuals from the 90s generation who are grappling with societal challenges. The accompanying music video encapsulates various themes, including #lifeplanning, #indecisiveness, #emotion management, #self-denial, and #financial strain. Reaching the age of 30 marks a significant milestone, where we gain a deeper understanding of society, possess some economic stability, and harbor diverse aspirations for the future. As you look at your successful and glamorous friends, there may be moments when you might feel that something is amiss — a sense of unfulfilled achievement, the absence of a stable partner, an ideal income, and the lingering sensation of not fully realizing your own potential.


During an early study conducted in Britain, 1,100 young individuals were interviewed. Among them, 86% felt pressured to achieve their ideal relationship, financial status, and job before turning 30. Additionally, 40% expressed concerns about their financial situation, while 32% felt the pressure to start a family. 6% of the participants had plans to emigrate, and 21% of the respondents believed that they needed to change their career trajectory.

In a survey conducted by LinkedIn among young individuals aged 25 to 33, it was found that 61% of respondents identified “not being able to find their passion” as their primary source of anxiety. Furthermore, 48% expressed feeling anxious due to a perceived inability to compete with their more successful peers.

The anxiety experienced during the period surrounding “29+1” has been described as the “Quarter-life crisis” (QLC).


What is a Quarter-life Crisis?

The term “quarter-life crisis” generally encompasses a period of questioning and exploration that is commonly experienced by individuals in their twenties and early thirties, typically between the ages of 25 and 35. It is characterized by a range of emotions, including insecurity, disappointment, loneliness, and depression.

It is commonly acknowledged that reaching the age of 30 is a critical period for establishing various aspects of life, including one's personal character, career, and family. This juncture marks a transition from youth to maturity, prompting many individuals to reflect upon their current circumstances. However, this self-reflection can be accompanied by feelings of uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety. There may be concerns about unrealized potential, leading to a heightened sense of crisis and increased pressure.


Drowning in Economic Anxiety: The Struggle Between Ideals and Realities

An article published in The Guardian sheds light on the quarter-life crisis, “young people are told they have a kaleidoscope of opportunity, but are fettered by a complete lack of stability. We were fed a narrative that we could be whatever we wanted to be, but for many of us the reality is working all day at a job you wish away, and spending every last penny to live in a rented flat with four strangers and a bad case of damp”.

The quarter-life crisis has been attributed to the insecurity experienced by young people, stemming from various social conditions. These include the escalating cost of living, soaring property prices, income inequality, limited upward mobility, economic volatility, and the rapid pace of technological advancements.

The Financial Times conducted interviews with nearly 2,000 young people worldwide, all below the age of 35, to gauge their perspectives on life. A common sentiment expressed by many was a pervasive feeling of insecurity, with a notable perception of having “nothing solid under their feet”. Several participants shared the belief that without inheriting their parents' wealth, achieving the financial stability that previous generations took for granted would be an arduous task, regardless of their hard work. These sentiments of insecurity appear to be shaping the way young individuals perceive the world around them.

Based on a U.S. survey of college freshmen conducted over a span of 50 years, there has been a notable shift in the priorities of college students. 

  • In 1967, only 42% of college students considered it very important to “make a lot of money after graduation”. However, by 2019, this percentage had significantly increased to 84%
  • Conversely, in 1967, a substantial 86% of college students believed it was very important to “develop a meaningful life” whereas by 2019, only 50% of college students shared this view.

The shifting economic and social landscape has led to a situation where numerous young individuals face precarious employment and unstable income. In their pursuit of a secure life, many young people have adopted a way of life centered around “job security” to ensure a stable income. They may find themselves caught in an internal struggle, as they try to navigate the competing factors of personal ambitions, financial considerations, and societal norms and expectations.


In our next article, titled “Transforming Quarter-life Crisis into Opportunity”, we will share some advice from psychotherapists targeted towards individuals experiencing the quarter-life crisis.

Psychology in everyday life
Mental health 101
Community mental health
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Ruby Liu MY

Well-being Promotion Officer of Jockey Club TourHeart+ Project

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