Women end up less happy than men

Jul 29, 2008

Less able to achieve their life goals, women end up unhappier than men later in life – even though they start out happier, reveals new research by Anke Plagnol of the University of Cambridge, and University of Southern California economist Richard Easterlin.

Plagnol and Easterlin's study, forthcoming in the Journal of Happiness Studies, is the first to use nationally representative data spanning several decades to examine the role of unfulfilled desires in a person's sense of well-being.

As the researchers explain, expectations of success may vary among those raised in different generations (i.e., an economic depression). Data sets from a range of time periods may also have different demographic compositions.

In their analysis, the researchers control for birth cohort and demographic characteristics such as race and education. They find that women are, on average, happier than men in early adulthood – but the glow wears off with time. Specifically, after the age of 48, men's overall happiness exceeds women's happiness.

These gender patterns of overall happiness correlate to patterns in two significant aspects of life satisfaction: family and finances.

As Plagnol explains: In later life it is "men [who] come closer to fulfilling their aspirations, are more satisfied with their family lives and financial situations, and are the happier of the two."

Women and men have fairly similar life goals when it comes to love, the study reveals. Nine out of 10 people of both genders reach adult life wanting a happy marriage.

"Differences between men and women in aspirations for marriage and children are fairly small," says Plagnol, who received her Ph.D. from USC in 2007. "Gender differences in satisfaction depend largely on attainment."

The saddest period of the average man's life – his 20s – is also the period when he is most likely to be single.

Young men are also more dissatisfied than young women with their financial situations, not because they are worse off, but because they want more and therefore experience a greater "shortfall," the researchers explain.

But age alters many things, including men's money woes and lackluster love lives.

After 34, men are more likely to be married than women, and the gap only widens with age, mirroring men's growing satisfaction with family life.

Men also become more satisfied with their financial situations over time, as reflected in their increased spending power. The researchers found that men tend to covet big-ticket items that might not be within reach until later in life, such as a car or vacation home.

(A notable exception: women want more "nice clothes" than men, the researchers found.)

These findings are consistent with an earlier study by Easterlin showing that recent generations are less satisfied than previous generations, despite having more.

"Of course, one doesn't have to be married to be happy, but if that's something you really want – and it is for most people – then the failure to attain it can have an impact on your overall happiness," Plagnol says, adding that those in a relationship also tend to be in a stronger financial position than those who must depend solely on their own resources.

Some age milestones:

-- 41: Age at which men's financial satisfaction exceeds women's financial satisfaction
-- 48: Age at which men's overall happiness exceeds women's overall happiness
-- 64: Age at which men's satisfaction with family life exceeds women's satisfaction

Citation: Plagnol, Anke C. and Richard A. Easterlin, "Aspirations, Attainments, and Satisfaction: Life Cycle Differences Between American Women and Men." Journal of Happiness Studies; DOI: 10.1007/s10902-008-9106-5.

Source: University of Southern California

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User comments : 18

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jburchel
5 / 5 (6) Jul 29, 2008
There are a lot of good jokes in here somewhere. Who is paying for this "research" by the way? The "Journal of HAPPINESS studies"?! WTF? I want to see more publications from the Journal of Rainbows and Moonbeams. And they call this a science site!
Glis
3.8 / 5 (4) Jul 29, 2008
"After 34, men are more likely to be married than women"

There are more women than men in the world, how else does this happen?

I'd say men are generally happier once the testosterone stops flowing and we get to think with one clear head.
Keter
5 / 5 (4) Jul 29, 2008
I wonder if the study is mixing up anger with unhappiness. Young women are notoriously unhappy with their looks, their jobs, their relationships, etc. Young men tend to be angry about those things, not unhappy. And in later life, women tend to be angry about their looks, their careers, and their relationships, not unhappy about them. For the middle aged woman "menopausal fury" is just as likely to be fury over multiple frustrations. Men at that age just go out, buy a sports car and dump the wife (adding to her anger...) It's cliche, but it's true.
Alexa
not rated yet Jul 30, 2008
The women are living longer in general, as a widows they've less reasons for remain happy.
D666
5 / 5 (2) Jul 30, 2008
"After 34, men are more likely to be married than women"


Don't forget that the ages aren't symmetric. Men tend to marry women younger than them. The article says that more 34-year-old men are married than 34-year-old women. This is probably the age at which the "available pool" for men starts getting larger than the "available pool" for women.
STAGGERBOT
5 / 5 (5) Jul 30, 2008
"As the researchers explain, expectations of success may vary among those raised in different generations"
and...
"-- 48: Age at which men's overall happiness exceeds women's overall happiness "

or interpreted another way
-in 2008 men born before 1960 are happier than women born before 1960
-but women born after 1960 are happier than men born after 1960

"Women end up less happy than men"?
more social engineering bunk from the wacky world of psychology surveys
alan143
5 / 5 (3) Jul 30, 2008
"After 34, men are more likely to be married than women."

Isn't that because young men are far more likely than women to commit suicide through depression, or to get killed while doing rotten jobs?

"64: Age at which men's satisfaction with family life exceeds women's satisfaction."

Surely, that's when a man can at last look forward to NOT working to earn the family's damn money. Why would that improve his wife's level of satisfaction in any way?

In fact this study suggests to me a brand new Social Policy: find the 10% least-happy feminist researchers and shoot them. Then the survivors will be as just happy as men, and from the same cause.
STAGGERBOT
5 / 5 (5) Jul 30, 2008
I want to see more publications from the Journal of Rainbows and Moonbeams. And they call this a science site!

Hilarious!, I like it.
but don't blame the site...physorg is as they say, just the messenger. If they didn't report some of this type of "research" you might not know how much loopy fluff is being pumped out under the guise of science. Also, this type of stuff gets huge media play with headlines like "Researchers have found....". At least here it can be debated. But unfortunately to the general news reader "Women end up less happy than men" with the guesses and preferred explanations of the authors included, will appear to be scientific research. What a lot of people haven't yet recognized is that the vast bulk of academic psychology has consciously transformed itself over the past few decades into a school of social engineering. It's about restructuring and reorganizing society and changing how individuals in that society feel and think. If the general news readership recognized research like this study as "findings from The School of Social Engineering" they'd give it it's due in critical thinking and would find it as ridiculous as you do.
Sign me up for a subsciption to the Journal of Rainbows and Moonbeams! seriously should start one...but then again social science is satire anyway, so maybe there's no need.
rodicol
4 / 5 (2) Jul 30, 2008
Since single women are poorer than single men, it only makes sense that older single women would be more unhappy than their male counterparts, thus accounting for the difference.
D666
5 / 5 (4) Jul 30, 2008
In fact this study suggests to me a brand new Social Policy: find the 10% least-happy feminist researchers and shoot them. Then the survivors will be as just happy as men, and from the same cause.


Wouldn't work, because men's happiness would increase dramatically....
Corban
4 / 5 (1) Jul 31, 2008
This is not so much a "women are less happy than men" than "people who fail are less happy than those who succeed." They're just trying to make inferences to give it an edgy bent!
Mayday
5 / 5 (3) Aug 02, 2008
Here's the shocking news:
Happiness and unhappiness are both lifestyle choices.

And I'm not talking about depression, that's quite different.

If you want to be happy, you will find ample reason. I you want to be unhappy, you will also find ample reason.

Both choices are made by the same basic mechanisms governing all choices. They see themselves gaining by the choice in some way.

This is what needs to be explored.
DoctorKnowledge
2.5 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2008
Well, gee folks. Human history would be a lot different if everybody evaluated their lives based on how "happy" they were. Was Hitler happy? Was Shakespeare? Is Madonna?

Hello? What does it matter?
Mayday
5 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2008
It's not about BEING happy. It's about SELLING happy. If people can be convinced that they need to be happy, then they will "happily" spend more money chasing happiness.

It's reparative consumption. And it's all about the chase, not any actual attained state, as for most people with a credit card in their hands, no such state exists.

Most people, it turns out, when told that their life is unhappy, will rush out and spend some cash(guys like gadgets/tools, women like shoes).

You have to love it. I'm all for it.
STAGGERBOT
5 / 5 (3) Aug 03, 2008
Well, gee folks. Human history would be a lot different if everybody evaluated their lives based on how "happy" they were.


For sure the world would be different if people evaluated their lives based on how happy they are...but happiness is subjective/relative of course, and in this case the author chose to make the comparison relative between men and women. Why?

It's not about BEING happy. It's about SELLING happy. If people can be convinced that they need to be happy, then they will "happily" spend more money chasing happiness.


And it is about SELLING happy, but not directly in the way you think.

The studys author Anke Plagnol is a research associate for a feminist organization called "ESRC Gender Equality Network".
http://www.anke-z.de/
It's a well organized but lose conglomerate of feminist social scientists and policy makers from Europe, the UK, and North America. One of their primary goals is to transform the workplace in the same way that the education system has been transformed in regards to gender.
[url]http://www.genet....dex.html[/url]

From the actual study paper the difference in happiness levels between men and women at age 78 is 3-5%...(page 32...scale is out of 3)
[url]http://www.genet....dex.html[/url]

you would think this to be good news that such a small differnce exists, but the tools that feminist social engineers have used to move and mold the cultural landscape are 1. female angst and 2. male guilt. That's what this paper is about.

Other papers published/promoted by this organizations members :
"What's Holding Women Back?
Any woman wanting to succeed in business should act like a 'surrogate man'."

Events/Workshops hosted by them:
"Nov 2008 Feminism Counts - Quantitative Methods and Feminist Research. The conference will examine this complex relationship and explore the dilemmas that contemporary feminists face when using quantitative tools and techniques."
http://www.genet....ex.html#

After that workshop you can expect even more politically motivated "research papers" like this one with a titillating title an a shellac of science being served up to the mainstream media. Well, actually we won't have to wait that long I'm sure.
Roland
5 / 5 (3) Aug 03, 2008
This is not surprising. Women have all the power in relationships in their 20's, due to a surplus of men. By late-40's & 50's, the power shifts due to a shortage of men. This is due to men's higher & earlier mortality.
thku4grace
not rated yet Aug 04, 2008
I've got a different theory about happiness.
Both men and women have a hole in their hearts that needs to be filled. We try to fill it with all sorts of things: sex, money, family, possessions. I think men become more complacent as they get older whereas women being slightly more intuitive by nature, realize more readily that all these things don't plug the hole.
Is it any surprise that men are more likely to become creatures of habit as they age as well?
superhuman
not rated yet Aug 07, 2008
- 41: Age at which men's financial satisfaction exceeds women's financial satisfaction
-- 48: Age at which men's overall happiness exceeds women's overall happiness
-- 64: Age at which men's satisfaction with family life exceeds women's satisfaction


So woman are happier for longer, and during the much more important and valuable part of life...

This has to be fixed!!