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Women Are Happy Early, Men Are Happy Late

Posted Oct 03 2008 12:51pm

According to this article that examines the relative happiness of men and women at various stages of life, women tend to be happier earlier in adulthood, while men are happier later in life. The age at which men pass women in overall happiness was found to be 48. Several explanations were offered, including the idea that men are more fully able to fulfill their life’s aspirations compared to women. It was also noted that financially, what men typically desired could be described as “big ticket items” which they are unable to afford until later in life (i.e. a fancy car). The issue of marriage and relationships was also addressed. From the article:

Women and men have fairly similar life goals when it comes to love, the study reveals. Nine out of 10 people of both genders reach adult life wanting a happy marriage. "Differences between men and women in aspirations for marriage and children are fairly small," says Plagnol, who received her Ph.D. from USC in 2007. "Gender differences in satisfaction depend largely on attainment."

The saddest period of the average man's life – his 20s – is also the period when he is most likely to be single. Young men are also more dissatisfied than young women with their financial situations, not because they are worse off, but because they want more and therefore experience a greater "shortfall," the researchers explain.

But age alters many things, including men's money woes and lackluster love lives. After 34, men are more likely to be married than women, and the gap only widens with age, mirroring men's growing satisfaction with family life. Men also become more satisfied with their financial situations over time, as reflected in their increased spending power. The researchers found that men tend to covet big-ticket items that might not be within reach until later in life, such as a car or vacation home. (A notable exception: women want more "nice clothes" than men, the researchers found.)

From a therapist’s perspective, I suppose the important lesson here is consideration of goals and attainment. The article notes that compared to previous generations, the current generation has more, but is less satisfied. On an individual basis, it’s important to periodically take stock of what you have, what you want, and what your priorities are. A periodic examination of these issues is healthy, and allows people to keep their perspective. This research may benefit people in examining their priorities based on gender and age. Obviously we can’t generalize from the group to the individual, but it may be a place to start for person can’t figure out the source of their dissatisfaction.

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