The myth of the male mid-life crisis

"Men in the middle" are men in a rut ... or so all the talk about the male mid-life crisis would have us believe. What a nice Father's Day gift it would be if that prevailing wisdom turned out to be wrong. Our Cover Story is reported now by Barry Petersen:


It can go zero to sixty in about three seconds, hit 200 miles an hour. A mean machine ... and for some, a time machine.

Most buyers of Corvettes are men in middle age, feeding the notion that they are chasing their youth.

At Rydell Chevrolet in Northridge, Calif., sales manager Rick Piedalue says the guys who buy Corvettes - average age 60 - know exactly what they're getting: They're buying "the fantasy," he said.

A fantasy to ward off a special evil - the male mid-life crisis.

The term was coined in 1965 by Canadian psychoanalyst Elliot Jaques, and it started with fear, says Margie Lachman a psychologist at Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

She was part of the most in-depth study ever done in the United States on the mid-life crisis.

"They were afraid of aging; they felt that their life was over," said Lachman. "They realized they had not accomplished all their goals, and had not been able to realize their dreams. And they thought it was too late, that there was really no more time to do this."

The concept is so widely-accepted, it's often blamed for men behaving badly, from Anthony Weiner, to Arnold Schwarzenegger, to Bill Clinton ... and beyond.

And from "The Seven Year Itch" to "American Beauty" to "Moonstruck," it's one of Hollywood's go-to themes.

But as it turns out, our assumptions are wrong. Surprisingly, Lachman's research shows that for most men it's more fiction than fact. Very few men - perhaps only 10 to 12 percent - have anything approaching a crisis.

"Your numbers would suggest that the vast majority of people take this in stride?" asked Petersen. "85, 90%?"

"I would say they do," Lachman said. "We find a lot of things going on in mid-life that are very positive. I think mid-life is a time where people are in the top of their game, in a sense, in the workforce, in their family. So in some ways I think mid-life should be associated more with competence and confidence than a crisis."

However small the numbers might be, a lot of men THINK it's real, and so is their fear.

And fear is driving a booming business promising to reverse mid-life aging.

"People look at me and they say, 'You look amazing from the neck down.' And I tell them that no one is more amazed than I am," said Dr. Jeffrey Life, who runs a clinic in Las Vegas.

He thinks he has the answer: Testosterone. A patient would get a vial of testosterone, "and then you draw that out into a syringe and inject it into the muscle of your leg once a week,' said Dr. Life.

Most men's testosterone levels peak in their late 20s, and decline steadily - about 1% a year after age 30.

Dr. Life says, stop the decline, and YOU regain your youth.

"I mean, I do things today, at age 72, that I would never have even considered doing ten years ago," he said. "I'm working on my black belt in tae kwon do. I lift weights five mornings a week with Rod, my trainer. I wrote a book. I mean, these are things that I could not have done ten, 15 years ago."

His body is his proof - after 8 years of taking testosterone.

"However we define mid-life - let's just throw out there as 50-ish - how many men at that age do you think need the kind of therapy that you offer?" asked Petersen.

"Which would include the correcting testosterone deficiencies, exercise, nutrition supplementation: 100 percent," said Dr. Life. "Everybody."

And Dr. Life isn't alone. Testosterone HAS gone mainstream, jumping from ads in the back of men's magazines, to slick commercials on network television.

The TV ad says your golf swing will get better ... your sex life will get better.

The result: Sales of testosterone products have shot up as if they are on, well, steroids - from $550 million in 2006, to $1.3 billion in 2010.

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