Anne Barrett, an associate professor of sociology Florida State University, and graduate student Erica Toothman analyzed two waves of nationally representative U.S. data collected in 1995 to 1996 and 2004 to 2006 that examined how various factors influence people's views of the timing of middle age.
Most people think of middle age as beginning at age 44 and ending at 60, Barrett said.
The study published in the journal Advances in Life Course Research found:
-- Younger adults tend to see middle age as occurring at younger ages than do older adults.
-- People who are more socioeconomically disadvantaged or belong to racial or ethnic minority groups tend to view this stage as occurring earlier than do their peers.
-- Others likely to view middle age as occurring earlier include those in poor health, those who began families young, those divorced and those without parents who were alive.
Barrett described Americans as being in "the curious position of wanting to live a long life but knowing it requires moving into the most devalued stage of life -- late old age."