Trend: Men happier, women not so much. Reckon why?

So, apparently extensive studies over the past 40 years show that women have grown unhappier, while men have grown happier:

Marcus Buckingham’s Huffpost blog: What’s Happening to Women’s Happiness?.

(I am linking to his post because he, in turn, links to the specific cites.)

From the post:

According to the post, this is true not just in America, but in most of the world, according to six major studies.

It’s also interesting to note that females become less happy as they grow older, while men grow happier.

This post is the first in a series, and the author doesn’t reveal his own theories as to why this trend is happening (he’s gonna tell us next week. What a tease).

Any thoughts/guesses?

(I’m asking without positing an explanation myself because, while I have a few thoughts, I really don’t know, so I’m asking. However, I’m guessing there is room for some debate, so I posted here in GD instead of GQ.)

Work vs kids. We now tend to share the breadwinning, but still shoulder the major burden of child rearing. If we stay at home with the kids, we feel guilty for not being a ‘modern’ woman and going out to work. If we work, we worry about being bad mothers. If we try to do both, we’re stretched too thin. And if we don’t have kids, we’re made to feel weird.

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Men, meanwhile, don’t have to shoulder the burden of all the breadwinning alone, and get to spend more time with and have closer relationships with their kids.

Most women, and indeed most men, like to be looked after. Women have been forced - by their sisters - to become more independent, while men have become less independent.

The irony is it was the right thing to do, but it has made most women unhappier. There is a similarity with socialism in fact.

I’ll say the social pressure on women to be perfect at everything. Supermom, career woman, beautifully decorated and kept house, slim and fit and beautiful, empathetic and nurturing–oh and nutritious meals–it’s not actually possible, but that’s the expectation. And IME women are really good at putting pressure on themselves and beating themselves up for not measuring up to those expectations without considering reality.

If you opt out of one set of expectations, you probably buy into another one (attachment parenting, organic shopping, having a goat and making own cheese, milling grain and baking own bread, knowing all about herbal remedies, and etc.). Not that it’s bad to commit to the lifestyle that you think is best for you, but we’re good at taking it a little too seriously and going for perfection over pretty-good–and ripping each other over perceived failings.

Or, as SanVito said, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. In a lot of ways, women can’t win no matter what they do. And even when you consciously decide to let that go, it nags at you.
Anyway, I’d say that I’m happy. :slight_smile: I like my life, especially now that my husband has a job! Woo, income on the horizon! Happy dance!

I don’t know, but I would say that happiness is a relative thing. Maybe in the past when most women stayed home with the kids and “made home”, they had less stress because the husband dealt with all the outside stress. But now they have the pressure of the outside and the pressures of home.

I agree with this (and what others have said) - it is a symptom of increased stress.

Dovetails with what I said in another thread about having kids - increased stress may be also something people would choose if given a choice, even though it may in fact make them “less happy” or “more prone to depression”.

In the specific case of women, the issue is exacerbated by the fact that the social change in female roles is not yet complete, and in particular hasn’t yet been fully met with a corresponding change in men’s roles. This means, on the one hand, that women are sorta expected to take on both roles, and on the other hand, men who take on stereotypically women’s roles face major social disadvantages.

Simple. We have you, you only have us.

I can’t buy into the stress argument very much. I’m sure that there’s some small percentage of women who suffer from being overstressed, but most people of either gender can handle a heavy workload and be happy if the work is something they enjoy. Besides which, the statistics show that we’re working less than we did fifty years ago and taking more leisure time on average.

One obvious explanation is that American culture has shifted towards the desires of men and away from the desires of women. This has happened in many forms, but the most obvious is the way that the media (and nearly everyone else) treats women as sex toys rather than human beings. Pornography and strip clubs have proliferated, but the problem goes beyond that. Women receive degrading messages from television and rap music. Even just walking through the mall, there are stores with huge posters of women wearing very little. All of this can’t fail to have some effect on many women.

This joke may have something to do with it. I’d like to see the breakdown between married and single as well as by gender and age. It may be that married men are happier than single men, and single women are happier than married women. If that’s true, then the explanation is a lot to do with women taking on more responsibilities, while we men have managed to lose the a bit. And the biggest change in each direction has been with married people.

From what I know of happiness much of it comes from the perception that who you are supposed to be and who you are match. If you are constantly short changing yourself, criticizing yourself and expecting too much then you are going to be more unhappy. However, I don’t see why that would explain it since unhappiness is worse as you get older and you’d assume as people get older, they’d become more comfortable with themselves. So if anything, if that were the reason you’d expect it to get better as time went on.

Have women always been as critical of themselves as they seem to be nowadays, or has it been a new phenomena? Even if so, that doesn’t explain the problem of unhappiness increasing with age, nor does it explain why it happens across all cultures.

I’m also disappointed that nobody could come up with a single misogynistic joke.

I’d like to point out that, although the phenomenon described in the article is a real one, the article itself is kind of flaky. He’s shilling his book, after all. Also, look at those graphs for crying out aloud. I really find it hard to take someone seriously who abuses statistics like that - what’s he done, taken the 1972 points, the 2006 points and just drawn a straight line between them?

Here is a slightly more intellectually valid paper dealing with the same subject. Take a look at the “gender” panel of figure 6 (about page 60 I think). That’s what the graph in his article whould really look like.

Having said that, it appears that women’s happiness levels are really going down - I suggest a factor that nobody has mentioned yet as a partial cause - the aging population. This guy himelf mentions the fact that women’s happiness tends to go down with age whereas men’s goes up - I find this entirely reasonable, since men’s status tends depend on their wealth, whereas women’s on their perceived attractiveness (sad but true). Wealth goes up with age, physical attractiveness not. This factor alone is likely trend towards a reversal in gender-based happiness, as the average age of the population goes up. In particular - baby boomers who were 7 - 27 in 1972 are now in their 40’s to 60’s. They are likely to be skewing the data.

Somehow I doubt that; wages haven’t been keeping up with inflation for decades, we’ve become more and more of a workaholic nation. What, did they have negative leisure time fifty years ago?

And how many people HAVE work they enjoy? By the nature of things most work is dull, unpleasant or dangerous; if it was fun, people would charge for it, not pay you for it.

As opposed to being treated as a combination of domestic servant, housepet and brood mare like in the “good old days”? Women have more respect, more freedom, more power by far than they did then. Degrading messages in music? When did they get anything BUT degrading messages 50 years back, in music or anything else?

And what makes you think that women don’t like looking sexy? If anything, the problem is that as women get older they get less attractive ( as mentioned above ). To whatever extent that this phenomenon is real I’d blame that.

I wasn’t really happy UNTIL I was independent. Especially financially independent. When I became a SAHM and was out of the work force for years, it was terrifying to know my life depended on the paycheck of a man. If he died, turned me in for a new younger model, or lost his job, I would have to go back to school, be totally retrained, and then hope someone would hire me before I was a senior citizen. No, you can’t blame the wimmen libbers or this. I agree for women it’s stress and worry. It never ends. There’s always something. Raising kids. Working. Housework. Marriage. The kids get older and come back home to live, unable to find jobs. The husband strays. Or gets sick. Or shows signs of getting sick in the future (fat smoker who lives on junk food.) Parents get old, feeble, ill. People get old and die. Who worries about all this? Women! Men come home from work, have a beer, eat and go to sleep and sleep like logs.

Get with the 21st century. We men don’t come home, have a beer, eat and then sleep like logs. We come home, have a beer, eat and play the Xbox. Only then do we sleep.

Women are better worriers. I don’t know if that’s nature or nurture.

How could it be nature? I think it has to do with the differences in the way we tend to socialize. And some say that that is due to the difference in the male and female brain. Women are wired for constant communication (heck, their two hemispheres communicate better with each other.) Constant communication means they are, now that they are out more, more likely to hear about other people’s problems. They seem to even be better at empathy.

I’ve even noticed this difference here on the boards. The only question is whether it is caused or increased by my own self selecting bias. I wonder if we could pull off a somewhat scientific experiment here.

One of the messages I’m getting from reading this thread is that women would be happier if they didn’t have kids.

I’d also like to point out that “happy” is not the same as “well off”; a fool can be happy even as disaster approaches.

Nature I think. Women are more cautious by nature than men, as both various studies and casual observation show. Which as I see it, has its good and bad aspects; women tend to take better physical care of themselves, tend to do better with investments over time since caution is rewarded there. But on the bad side they worry more; you can’t be cautious without also being a worrier.

And also, women as a rule are not as concerned with appearing confident. If you ask a man and a woman how they are doing, a woman is more likely to tell you about what troubles she has; a man would be more likely to put a brave face on things. We still live in a culture where men fear to admit weakness or ask for help, which leads to an “it’s only a flesh wound” attitude among men.

Wow, lots of great responses and thoughts. Thanks to all who have responded.

elucidator, I thought your answer was adorably sweet, and gave me a chuckle.

It reminds me of an incident back when I used to volunteer at my daughter’s school (a private school for special needs kids). A couple of the boys in the hall were making fun of another boy, with insults that implied he was female. I stopped them and asked why did they think it was insulting to a boy to call him a girl? Did that mean they thought boys were better than girls? One of them answered immediately, “No. But if he was a girl, then he’d have to like us!”

Well, what’s not to love about being a man? :stuck_out_tongue:

My theory (consistent with much of what’s above): television. Women watch more of it than men, and it’s in various ways designed to make you less than satisfied with your appearance, possessions, and life in general.