Few research papers hit a nerve like the 2009 report The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness. Over the past 35 years, “women’s happiness has declined both absolutely, and relative to men,” Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers wrote in the American Economic Journal.
Some interpreted this as an indirect indictment of the feminist movement, which — the argument went — has given women more freedom but left them less content. While that was not the thesis of the paper’s authors, the notion was debated by newspaper columnists ranging from social conservative Ross Douthat to feminists such as Barbara Ehrenreich and Ellen Goodman.
Well, it turns out our deepening collective funk may not be gender-specific after all. A just-published paper by Chris Herbst of Arizona State University concludes that American men and women “experienced similar decreases in life satisfaction” between 1985 and 2005.
“Both sexes witnessed comparable slippages in self-confidence, growing regrets about the past, and declines in virtually every measure of self-reported physical and mental health,” he writes in the Journal of Economic Psychology. His data suggests this rising discontent holds true “regardless of gender, age, marital status and educational attainment.”
While this trend toward increased dissatisfaction has gradually become less severe, he reports it has leveled off more for females than for males. As a result, “men’s well-being in recent years has begun to fall more rapidly than that for women,” he writes.
Read the full article on AlterNet.
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