Friday, September 25, 2009

mama ain't happy ... but why??

Earlier in the week, my dear friend Judy [hi, Judy!] emailed me a link to Maureen Dowd's Sunday column, "Blue is the New Black," thinking [correctly] it might interest me - it was about women and happiness, in particular the fact that women are getting unhappier.

Later in the week, the ladies of The View talked about this topic, too. Over the past couple of years, six major happiness studies have been released and every single one has come up with the same result: Since 1972, regardless of their lot in life, women's overall level of happiness has fallen.

The single exception is African-American women, who are slightly happier today than they were in 1972, but are still less happy than African-American men.

No matter how old they are, how healthy they are, what job they work at, how much money they make, what their relationship status is, whether they have kids or how many kids they have, women have become less happy with their lives than they were 37 years ago.

And to add insult to injury, research also shows that as women get older, they get sadder. Women begin their lives more fulfilled than men, but as they age, they go down the satisfaction scale, while men go up.

Information from the World Health Organization supports this research - according to WHO's latest analysis, depression is the second-most debilitating disease for women [heart disease is first], while it ranks #10 for men.

Depressed yet? Don't be. These are data trends - they don't mean all women are sad sacks or that this pessimistic life perspective must be yours.

But they definitely do force the question WHY??

As Marcus Buckingham - bestselling author and leading expert on personal strengths - says in his Huffington Post blog, "The advances of the last forty years were supposed to have changed things for the better, and not just for womankind, but for each individual woman. The hard-won rights, opportunities and advantages were supposed to have netted women more than just another burdensome role to play - "you at work." They were supposed to have fostered in each woman feelings of fulfillment and happiness, and even, for the special few, the sustained thrill of living an authentic life. This hasn't happened. Over the last forty years or so, life is not trending toward more fulfillment for women; life is, in most ways we can measure, becoming more draining instead."

Buckingham goes on to prove that these trends are not being caused by women working longer hours than men [turns out women and men work the same number of hours in a day], nor by gender-based stereotyping [turns out the same amount of men and women believe men should be the breadwinners while women should be the breadbakers], nor by women bearing a heavier burden of the workload at home - "second-shift syndrome" [turns out while women still do more home-work than men, the numbers are narrowing, trending toward greater parity, which logically should be leading to greater happiness for women].

So if it's not the work hours, the inequality or the second shift, then what the heckinahandbasket is happening here?

Buckingham has some clues. I'll outline them for you in tomorrow's post. :)

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