Today more than ever before women have acquired freedoms of self-expression that when taking it all into consideration we would think women must be happier than at any time ever recorded. Many complex scientific studies, however, are indicating this may not be the case. It may be that the rate of women’s happiness, especially in the U.S., is declining despite all of the advances they have made:
- a greater degree of control over reproductive issues
- increased freedom from a purely domestic focus
- more freedom to navigate and express themselves differently in the family role
- more freedom to navigate and express themselves differently in relationship roles
- greater freedom to excel and advance in the labor force
- a general rise in wages
- greater sexual freedom for innate self-expression however that looks
- improved leverage in marriage and family rising from increased opportunities outside of marriage
- a louder more prominent social voice than ever before
Authors Stevenson and Wolfers of the exhaustive study on this issue, the 2009 National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper entitled, The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, say:
By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women's happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women's declining relative well-being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well-being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries. Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap in happiness in which women in the 1970s typically reported higher subjective well-being than did men. These declines have continued and a new gender gap is emerging–one with higher subjective well-being for men.
Given these shifts of rights and bargaining power from men to women over the past 35 years, holding all else equal, we might expect to see a concurrent shift in happiness toward women and away from men, yet we document in this paper that measures of women’s subjective well-being have fallen both absolutely and relatively to that of men.
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Blanchflower and Oswald also say in their article, Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA:
While women report being happier than men over the period that they examine, the trend in white women’s happiness in the United States is negative over the period.
These same trends are also evident in Europe. Using data from the Eurobarometer(1) of 12 European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and West Germany), EU happiness has risen for both men and women, however happiness increases have been greater for men relative to women leading to a decline in European women’s happiness relative to that of European men.
The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness report was compiled in 2009 and so much has happened since then.
The U.S. had their first female presidential candidate, numerous sexually oriented “scandals” have been brought to light, we went through a major economic recession putting even more pressure on both men and women to perform for their families and/or their own survival, and countless incidents of mass gun violence have continued to strike the very core and heart of our society.
While The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness report struggles to find the reasons for this phenomena developing and using empirical evidence, they may be missing the simple truth, a truth which really can’t be quantified, calculated or measured:
Women have a tendency to feel. Women are emotional beings and they tend to live emotionally rather than rationally. How can emotion be measured?
It could be that living more rationally as do many men actually prevents some men from feeling certain emotions that might help lead them to feel that they are unhappy.
Perhaps it’s this internal unrest women feel that is in part responsible for the Women’s March, January 21, 2017 not just in the U. S. but all over the world and also for the #MeToo movement begun in 2017 where women are just not going to take being controlled and disrespected any more.
Though it seems like the path of emotions rather than rationality and logical thinking is the more challenging path, and though women may actually be measured to be less happy than men these days, these so-called scientific measurements are based on the women’s answers to the questions posed.
It may be that women are answering these questions emotionally. Numbers, formulae and graphs cannot compute emotions.
It may also be that women’s standards look different. Maybe they will not be truly happy until they have achieved the recognition of equality that is rightfully theirs.
And maybe women, knowing they are close but still have far to go in regaining that equality with men, identify this uneasiness as unhappiness.
As wise ones always say, happiness is not a goal. It’s a journey.
Happiness is a journey of present moment enjoyments–tiny and large–all strung together. We cannot be happy if we are always angsting over some future accomplishment when all the kernels of joy are right here, right in front of us all along.
The important thing for women at this time is always is to be nice to themselves, to constantly find ways to nurture and enjoy themselves. In these times of social unrest, it is important that society have as many people as possible rooted in their sense of Self and well-being in the here and now. This can be the bedrock on which all current change can be built.
If we're unhappy, it’s often because we are looking to the sad past or agonizing about the future which has not even come.
The paradox of declining female happiness may be more about not living in the present and finding joys in that present no matter how tiny they are than anything else.
Be nice to yourself. One way to relax and enjoy what life has to offer is to explore Ageless La Cure’s nurturing, essential-oil rich line of organic certified age-defying skincare today. Let it lift you up as you resolve to live in this moment now and enjoy every little thing in life. Then happiness will truly be yours.
Be sure to also explore the topic of pathways to happiness discussed at our sister site's blog at phyto5.us. Wei Chi and the Beauty of Emotions is a great blog post to begin with. Just enter the word happiness in the search bar in the upper left area of every page.
Footnote: (1) Eurobarometer is a series of public opinion surveys conducted regularly on behalf of the European Commission since 1973. These surveys address a wide variety of topical issues relating to the European Union throughout its member states.
The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness by Betsey Stevenson, Justin Wolders, NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) Working Paper No. 14969, Issued May 2009. http://www.nber.org/papers/w14969
Blanchflower, D., & Oswald, A. . Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA. Journal of Public Economics, 88 [7-8], 1359-1386.
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