WHO’S HAPPIER: MEN OR WOMEN?
Most reports on happiness are subjective and based on the participants’ self-reports. Just because someone looks happy doesn’t mean they are happy on the inside. Most studies had simple questions such as “very happy”, “pretty happy”, and “not happy”. These statistics don’t factor in the backgrounds of these participants’ that may have affected their scores.
Despite the subjective nature of these studies, they still shed some light on happiness in varying sociological groups. Overall, older people live happier lives than younger ones and so do those with good health and wealth. The Pew Global Attitudes Project looked at the differences in male and female happiness by surveying 38,000 men and women from 44 different countries. Overall, the women reported they were more satisfied than the men in countries such as Japan, Argentina, and Pakistan the women reported they were significantly happier. This study found that women’s happiness targeted personal and domestic issues, while men’s was more focused on issues outside of the home.
When recessions occur, for instance, men may feel a large drop in happiness because their happiness is externally focused, while women may remain upbeat because their happiness is relationship-focused.
But, researchers have found that men become happier as they get older in comparison to women. In developed nations, including the United States, women are becoming much happier as they now have access to the same career and educational opportunities as men. Not to mention, work that used to be “women’s work” is now more of a shared endeavor so the women are not pushed to do everything by themselves.
Economists from Princeton have shown that women’s happiness is sagging. While it is higher than men’s, their happiness is waning as the years go on. According to the researcher, women like common activities, such as watching television or gardening, they may be spending more time on undertakings that aren’t as gratifying. Compared to men, women spent around 90 minutes more than their male counterparts on “unpleasant” tasks. This may harken back to the duties of women in the past. As modern women are included in opportunities out of the home, they may struggle to accomplish the delicate balancing act that is a career and family, which may lower happiness. Their ambition collides with their familial duties and they may feel they aren’t good enough to achieve both at the same time.
Age is also a strong determinant of the happiness of men and women.
The Journal of Happiness Studies found that men’s happiness overtook women’s happiness when they hit 48. When women are younger, they enjoy building relationship and families, and men struggle to rise on the corporate ladder. When middle age comes, women are disappointed they have not reached their life goals while men have reached theirs. Finally, around 64 years of age, men appreciate their families more than women. Though this pattern may be linked to geography, as a survey of United kingdom men and women showed women that were 50 years or older were happier than men.
IF MEN ARE LESS HAPPY, COULD IT BE PRESENT AT BIRTH?
According to Dr. Alberto Pertusa, a Consultant Psychiatrist believes this may be the case. A mental health researcher, he believes differences in the brain of men and women, whilst small, may explain some of the disparities between the sexes.
Research has shown that both sexes are capable of the same amount of empathy, which is the ability to recognize and experience the emotions of yourself and others’. due to evolutionary purposes, Dr. Pertusa hypothesizes that men may be able to “suppress” their empathy, as this was useful when they needed to suppress their fear or other strong emotions when hunting or fighting. As they needed to perform when needed, men couldn’t allow their emotions to inhibit their performance.
In addition, he notes there are different responses in the amygdala, the central location for emotions, especially fear, between men and women depending on the situation.
Dr. Bruce McEwen, a neuroendocrinologist of Rockefeller University asserts that sex hormones may contribute to differences in how the genders handle emotions. He and his team discovered that estradiol, the female hormone, causes the synapses to swell and an increase in neural connections. On the other hand, men’s synapses shrank. This may lead to differences to stress that are common among each group. Women tend to become depressed and anxious when stressed. They are prone to overthinking, whereas men struggle to recognize and process emotional misery. They may respond with antisocial behavior, substance abuse, and violence due to this inability to connect to their emotions.
It’s unlikely there is a strong correlation between men’s happiness that may be present at birth.
More likely, this unhappiness may be caused by their environment and society at large. Flooded with societal pressure and the mantra to “act like a man”, many men fear showing any vulnerability. Lee Barnes has been a life coach to men for many years and nearly half of his clients report they feel isolated. Many of these men feel isolated from their partners, passions, and communities. Societal and cultural pressures ensure that men remain bottled up in themselves. This can lead to undesirable behavior and frustration for men.
In many cases, society’s pressure to make men strong may strip them of their trust, vulnerability, and empathy. This disconnects them from themselves and their community, leading to stagnation in their lives and intense feelings of sadness.
Happiness between the genders is complicated and varies depending on the situation, but society may contribute to men’s unhappiness. Both women and men have a variety of stresses throughout their lives and react in many different ways. Women are, often, able to express their emotions more openly, which may contribute to higher levels of happiness, though this is just one of the factors that may explain whether one gender is happier than another.