Thursday, September 27, 2007

 

Happy, Happy, Happy!!

For the first time ever, I've seen a study that concludes men are happier than women. (Study report here.) My son had turned on the TV for a few minutes this morning and Good Morning America was on and reporting this story.
In the 1970s, a range of surveys on the topic found women to be happier than men. Today, studies suggest a happiness gap.

"We find that women have become less happy or less satisfied with their lives over time and less happy relative to men," said Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the Wharton School. "Surprising, perhaps, given the increased opportunities and choices for women in the modern world."

The study found that women feel they have too many choices and too many responsibilities, which adds to their feelings of sadness. Women are now often stretched and stressed between the workplace and home. "Women end up with a lot more responsibility and men play a lot more than women do," one subject said.
Funny thing, I don't remember so much concern when women were happier than men. I don't remember any concern when this study showed that women were happier after divorce than men. (With a 50% divorce rate in the U.S., how can more men be happy than women?) Or when this global study showing women being happier than men was published.

A New York Times article points out:
Since the 1960s, men have gradually cut back on activities they find unpleasant. They now work less and relax more.

Over the same span, women have replaced housework with paid work — and, as a result, are spending almost as much time doing things they don’t enjoy as in the past. Forty years ago, a typical woman spent about 23 hours a week in an activity considered unpleasant, or 40 more minutes than a typical man. Today, with men working less, the gap is 90 minutes.
What has changed — and what seems to be the most likely explanation for the happiness trends — is that women now have a much longer to-do list than they once did (including helping their aging parents). They can’t possibly get it all done, and many end up feeling as if they are somehow falling short.

Mr. Krueger’s data, for instance, shows that the average time devoted to dusting has fallen significantly in recent decades. There haven’t been any dust-related technological breakthroughs, so houses are probably just dirtier than they used to be. I imagine that the new American dustiness affects women’s happiness more than men’s.
Well, so much for bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan because you're a woman. BTW - DrHelen points out that plenty of men are caring for aging parents. Plus, there have been "dust-related technological breakthroughs." Apparently the writer never heard of a HEPA filter for a vacuum cleaner or any of the numerous air purifiers on the market, less dust in the air - less dust on the furniture. Plus, there are lots of other cool dusting tools. But, as the writer points out, many men just aren't bothered by dust.


Alan Krueger in a different study with the same conclusion notes - "Second, different people have different emotional responses to the same activities, and the mix of preferences could be changing over time." In other words, which activities that bring happiness is subjective. My personal example is mowing lawns. Within limits, I enjoy mowing my lawn. I intentionally bought a house with a large lawn because I like lawns and mowing is is generally a pleasure. I have a friend who bought a condo because he didn't want to mow anything.

Good Morning America did a woman on the street thing, asking women what they thought. Of the two women I saw the first woman stated she thought she was happy and probably as happy as any man. She may well be. The study didn't say all men were happier than all women. The other woman said that she thought men should be just as miserable as her. (She didn't sound like she was joking.) If she wasn't joking, it's easy to see why she's unhappy.

My favorite reaction was a comment left at ABC.com.
Of course women are less happy than men-these so-called "choices" women have are not really choices at all. The problem is with the feminist movement stopping when women began regularly entering the workforce. Women have made strides in education and career, but have remained the sole caretaker of the family. America's "family values" thread is an underlying force that drives men and women to believe that women should still take the majority of household/childcare work upon themselves. American men are all to willing to let their working wives do most or all of the household chores and care for the children while they prioritize their careers and social time for themselves. This article is a clear, concise warning that the feminist movement needs to target the American family and the division of household labor between men and women.L.V., M.S. Labor Relations & Human Resources
Posted by:
workmom71 1:01 PM
The feminist movement stopped!? Remained sole caretaker?! - Not any family I know.

But this is the clincher:

This article is a clear, concise warning that the feminist movement needs to target the American family and the division of household labor between men and women.L.V., M.S. Labor Relations & Human Resources

What an incredible sense of entitlement. Yep, essentially we need to change the entire world to make sure women are happy. (Much of which we've already done in order to make women happier and they end up less happy.)

The researchers did note the feminist's movements role.
Finally, the changes brought about through the women’s movement may have decreased women’s happiness. The increased opportunity to succeed in many dimensions may have led to an increased likelihood of believing that one’s life is not measuring up. Similarly, women may now compare their lives to a broader group, including men, and find their lives more likely to come up short in this assessment. Or women may simply find the complexity and increased pressure in their modern lives to have come at the cost of happiness.
It appears to me that too many women have bought the lie that you can be everything, do everything and have everything. Men know that all you really need is a living wage, a couple of buddies and good beer. :-)

My favorite take on happiness comes in the words of J. Krishnamurti.
Question: Are you happy or not?
Krishnamurti: The boy asks `Are you happy or not? I never thought about it. I never thought `Am I or not?'
Happiness is not something of which you are conscious, you cannot ask yourself `Am I happy?' The moment you ask that question, you are unhappy. Happiness is something that comes, not because you are seeking it but because you are doing something which really interests you. You are doing something because you love it; in the very doing of it, there is something which is called happiness; but, if you are conscious that you are happy, it is already gone. The moment you say `I am happy', is not happiness already gone?
You understand what I am talking about? Please ask your teachers to explain all these things; and if they do not understand and they do not explain it you search it out, do not accept anything. Do not be browbeaten, do not be bullied by the older people. Find out, enquire, search and never be satisfied; then, you will find out what it is to be happy.
January 22, 1954
My best personal experience with being happy came during my divorce process. I was broke and miserable like the divorce study above says. But, I decided I wanted to do as many positive things as I could. I began helping co-workers with tasks they needed help with such as paint rooms in their houses. I helped the local Lions Club sell food on the Fourth of July and so on. I eventually even made a few extra dollars cutting and putting up tobacco. (Have you ever stood, hanging tobacco, on a loose round rail 30 feet off the ground at the top of a 5 bent barn? You'll be happy just to survive.)

It really wasn't about being happy but about doing something positive with my life. I had some great experiences, made some good friends and learned a lot. I have to agree with Krishnamurti. If you seek happiness, you won't find it. But, "Find out, enquire, search and never be satisfied; then, you will find out what it is to be happy." Please don't confuse "never be satisfied" with being a chronically dissatisfied person though. What I believe he means is don't be complacent but keep searching always.

Comments:
One of the commenters at ABC.com seems to be trapped in the feminist fallacy that women spend a lot more time doing work of one sort or another than men. Her quote was: This article is a clear, concise warning that the feminist movement needs to target the American family and the division of household labor between men and women.L.V., M.S. Labor Relations & Human Resources
Posted by:
workmom71 1:01 PM

She should check out the University of Michigan time usage studies. The total amount of work for men and women is about the same on average.

Oh well, who needs facts when you can rely on your feelings or on feminist dogma or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Dr. Will
 
I don't see how forcing (more) change on the American family can make a person happy. Unless someone gains happiness by spreading misery. I've been in divorce court, too.

I always thought happiness was an inside thing. Happiness, as in a well balanced outlook on life, and a pretty well adjusted set of expectations. It took me a while to stop counting chickens before they hatched. You know, the totally unexpected and such. Helps one to think a little better, a little clearer.

I admit right up front that I am not as happy as I wish to be, even could be - definitely not as happy as I was at one time. The cure for that is inside myself, regardless of the cause. I'm working on it. And I'm trying not blame anyone else for it in the mean time - because it just isn't cricket, is it?

In the U.S. , one would think the "pursuit of happiness" is here for the taking. Seems women fought for their rights for an equal shot at this pursuit for a long time, and finally won it (rightly so). Perhaps they have been disillusioned by the realization that happiness is not at the end of this rainbow, either. Perhaps the fight to climb the fence for the greener grass isn't as rewarding as it seemed. It has to be fertilized, watered, and mowed, and it gets invaded by grubs and weeds.

Big difference between "instead of" as opposed to "in addition to". Equal "oppression" is not equal "freedom".

I never have been able to explain myself well. Anyway, it's Saturday, need to mow the grass.
 
br549 - I agree, happiness comes from the inside not the outside. Outside factors have some influence. But past a certain minimal point where your fundamental needs are met, happiness is an inside job.

I also think you are right that many women are "disillusioned by the realization that happiness is not at the end of this rainbow," That's what is so outrageous about the one woman's comments that feminism needs to go further. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
 
A more interesting study would attempt to determine the correlation between a woman's happiness and her belief in various popular feminist dicta.

I'm not surprised to learn that women are less happy then men. Many of the women that I know are pathetic and miserable. But these same women tend to be rather self absorbed. Women are often promoted the idea that self love/awareness is a cure-all, and that there's no such thing as too much. The result, among many women, is a sort of morbid self absorbtion, like that of adolescents.
 
Great post. Now that feminists realize that men might have some happiness, they have set out to change that.
 
perhaps this change will affect the life-expectancy gap. I've often thought that one of the reasons women live longer then men is due to the impact of a formal career and all the baggage and stress being a member of the formal workforce brings.

For example, my wife just returned to full time work after staying home for the past ten years with our four kids. I dont' mean to belittle what she has done for the past ten years. It is not much fun doing laundry everyday. However, even she admits that after working full time for a couple of weeks, she is stressed and streched. And we have always shared the household chores pretty much half and half. What can I say? with four kids it is either chaos or my military training takes over....

but I still wonder about the potential affects of 'traditional careers' for the females in the workforece and how this may impact the life expectancy gap over the next couple of decades. It may be quite a wake up call.....
 
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