Hit close to home, anyone?
Since 1972, women’s self-described levels of happiness have fallen a few percentage points and now rest below that of men, on average, in every age category. It is particularly pronounced in those ages 30 to 44 — not coincidentally, women dealing with child rearing and aging parents, while reaching a critical point in their careers.
This drop in female happiness is pervasive — it also holds true regardless of marital status, education and employment. The only exception researchers were able to tease out was among African Americans. No one’s certain why African American women report higher levels of happinness than they did in the ’70s, but it’s an intriguing aberration that merits follow-up.
While the gap is not huge, research co-author Betsey Stevenson said it was stunning given that by objective measures, the status of women’s lives has improved in recent decades. “We would have expected their happiness to shoot up, not fall,” she said.
Meanwhile, at Princeton University, another economist and a team of psychologists simultaneously stumbled across a gender “happiness gap” while analyzing dour decades worth of data on what Americans do with their time and how they feel when they’re doing it.
Working-age women, for example, increasingly spend more time on paid work, caring for adults and watching TV — and less time cooking, ironing, dusting, entertaining and reading — than in the 1960s. But the data also reveals that men are spending less time on paid work and relaxing more — including watching more TV. In essence, men have gotten the knack of spending less time doing things they consider unpleasant.
Women, on the other hand, spend more time with family and friends but find it more stressful than men do. (Of course, such time often involves child or elder care, or hostessing, and could rightfully be categorized as work as well.)