If you’ve been living long enough, at least 30 years, that is, you should no longer be surprised at how some people just have that positive disposition in them while some always look as if they’ve inherited all the bad luck in the world. Determining the factors that affect the differences in happiness among men and women are generally hard enough.
Where do the differences in women’s happiness lie?
Several studies have been conducted to find out what causes people to be happier than others. Among the different factors identified to be strongly correlated by studies focusing on finding the key to women’s happiness are as follows:
Measure used. Measures of happiness can only be conducted via a self-reported assessment of the research subjects. Then, the thought process of the reporting instruments used and the evaluation mechanism used to understand these also affect the findings and the results. So much so that some studies tend to find significant relationships with a particular factor while others get negligible results for the same factor.
Age. Scientists have attempted to link age and happiness in many ways. There are studies that reported how older people in general report higher levels of happiness. These studies attribute the low level of happiness among people in their 30’s and 40’s to fulfilling their domestic roles and their roles as financial providers.
There are also studies that attempt to find a more physical connection between happiness and the human brain, such is the study conducted by Cacioppo, Berntson, Bechara, Tranel, and Hawkley. The study proposed that the physiological changes in the brain, including the declining levels of amygdala, the grey part of the brain that is credited for allowing humans to understand and exhibit emotions, cause older men and women to experience negative emotions much less.
Nationality and role at home and in the society. Significant relationships have also been found to exist between happiness and these factors. Some countries show up higher in happiness index measures than others.
The World Happiness Report conducted and published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network measures happiness in relation to the following parameters: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and trust. According to its 2016 release, the Top 5 countries reporting the highest levels of happiness are the Nordic countries, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Finland, with Switzerland taking the second top spot.
Optimism. Some studies have also attempted to link people’s optimistic or pessimistic outlooks in life to the attainment of satisfaction which leads to happiness. In general, however, the link between outlook and happiness have yet to be established.
In a study conducted by de Juan, Mochón and Rojas published in the Journal of Social Research and Policy in 2014, it was observed that people who had a brighter outlook of the future had optimistic personalities. One other factor found to affect their outlook was their economic situation and any upward or downward trend experienced in this aspect in the recent past.
Emotional stability. In general, women tend to become more emotionally and psychologically affected under stress, pressure and uncertainties faced in their relationship. Some studies, however, have pointed out the irony of the higher tendency among men to commit suicide while there are more women seeking clinical help for any mental or psychological distress they may be going through.
Generosity and kindness. Interesting links between happiness, generosity and kindness have also been explored. A particular study by Aknin, Dunn and Norton published in the Journal of Happiness Studies in 2012, found that people who felt happy recalling a situation when they spent on somebody else were more likely to give again rather than spend on themselves. Giving to others was associated with happiness.
Social expectations. Gender roles have also been explored as determinants of happiness. Some studies revealed that expectations of women performing domestic responsibilities are causing women to feel more burdened than men, more particularly when both partners are also contributing economically.
The study, “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness” conducted by Stevenson and Wolfers and published by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany in 2009, concluded that the gender equality that emerged may have made women feel more unhappy. The researchers attributed this to the tendency of women to evaluate their accomplishments more poorly, coupled with the still higher likelihood of not besting their male counterparts. The modern day woman, the study concludes in geist, has become overly burdened by her growing societal role. Her newfound freedom and equality with the opposite sex has come at the cost of happiness.
Happiness among men vs. happiness among women
Robert Waldinger of Harvard recently reported on TED Talks, about the findings of a 75-year study that sought to determine what factors influenced happiness and health among men. The study followed 237 college students and 332 out-of-school youth from the Boston area. Among the factors mesaured and monitored included social relationships, health, disease and material abundance.
The study found that men who were socially attached and felt that they belonged to a community tended to live longer, healthier and happier lives compared to those who were alone more frequently than not. Quality marriage and stable partnerships also affected the subjects’ level of happiness, health and longevity.
In another study also by Waldinger but this time with Cohen, Schulz and Weiss, published in 2012 in the Journal of Family Psychology, the researchers concluded that women are happier in their relationships when their male partners are able to tell when they are upset and when their partners are able to show them their negative emotions.
The same study pointed out how men tend to be happy when they know that their partners are happy.
The evolving roles of women in today’s fast-changing societies may be taking a toll on our happiness, health and well-being. Could it be the uncertainties we face? Or, could it be the constant feeling of running out of sufficient time to serve up every role women play — as a mom, wife, daughter, colleague, neighbor and so much more? The reasons are endless but the bottomline is simple: we are strong but, we also need all the help that we can get.