The study used nationally representative data spanning several decades to examine the role of unfulfilled desires in a person's sense of well-being. Thus, it covers expectations of success and demographic compositions of different generations.
In their analysis, the researchers control for birth cohort and demographic characteristics such as race and education. They find that women are, on average, happier than men in early adulthood – but the glow wears off with time. Specifically, after the age of 48, men's overall happiness exceeds women's happiness.
These gender patterns of overall happiness correlate to patterns in two significant aspects of life satisfaction: family and finances. In later life, it is men who come closer to fulfilling their aspirations and, thus, are happier.
Women and men have fairly similar life goals when it comes to love, the study reveals. Nine out of ten people of both genders reach adult life wanting a happy marriage. The saddest period of the average man's life –when he is in his 20’s– 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 say. But age alters many things: 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.
The researchers conclude: one surely does not have to be married to be happy, but if that is what a person really wants – and, according to their study, it is for most people – then the failure to attain it can have an impact on the overall happiness. Additionally, they say, those in a relationship tend to be in a stronger financial position than those who must depend solely on their own resources.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Southern California