What’s happening to women’s happiness?

mumsWell, according to Marcus Buckingham, women are just getting more and more miserable. His new book suggests that women have been on a downward trend since the 1970s. Men on the other hand are getting happier. The book, Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently, lays out the argument that that women just can’t handle choice. Have a read of  Ruth Sutherland’s take on this, he doesn’t seem to have won many fans. Here’s Bonnie Fuller.  Are women too afraid to admit that life was simpler when they didn’t have as much choice?

43 Responses to “What’s happening to women’s happiness?”

  1. 1 anu_d
    September 28, 2009 at 10:43

    which women is he talking about?
    Indian women have according to many surveys been enojoying more freedom and social representation then ever before.
    Chinese women are revelling in their new found capitalistic styled ( ironically) materialistic freedom.
    And between those two nations…they represent 35% of world’s women.

    So is Marcus Buckingham talking about African or Middle Eastern women?

    Ohh…I suspect he may be talking about a trend/ feeling in a small subset of middle / upper class women in the first world………and with god given right of extrapolating that over the entire woman and man kind.

    a_D in Kuwait

  2. 2 Ibrahim in UK
    September 28, 2009 at 11:30

    Life was simpler, roles and expectations were more defined and realistic. The drive towards equality overshot into an insistence on being identical to males. They are now fulfilling the role of women and men.
    A woman today is expected to look like a model, have a successful career, be a good wife, housekeeper and mother. The inability to reach all these goals is felt as failure.
    Society needs to re-adjust itself at balancing the burdens of this life between the sexes.

  3. 3 patti in cape coral
    September 28, 2009 at 12:54

    I skimmed part of the poll on women’s happiness, and they are talking about American women. I suspect it is American women in the U.S. and not Latin America or Canada. Maybe women’s expectations are so high, there is a lot of disappointment when they aren’t reached? I don’t know, despite my problems, I’m pretty happy.

  4. 4 gary
    September 28, 2009 at 13:32

    Why do authors take pains to point out the obvious substantial differences between the sexes and then make direct comparisons? Perhaps in Mr. Buckingham’s case authorship has been confused with authority.

  5. 5 viola
    September 28, 2009 at 15:00

    What I’ve noticed in my life is that if any woman anywhere is unhappy, others read that simple fact as meaning that all women are unhappy. Pretty dumb. disguise it all you want it still comes down to : She’s a woman. She’s unhappy. Therefore, all women are unhappy, the most obvious bad logic.

    It’s the same reasoning used by so many. Such as; you hate women, you’re a man. Therefore all men hate women. Again, very dumb logic.

    All the rest of the topic asking if too many choices make us unhappy hinge on accepting that women are unhappier than they used to be or are unhappier than men.

    I don’t appreciate people always asking me if I’m happy or not. Makes me wonder if I should be. Could that be labelled a self-fulfilling prophecy?

  6. 6 Verena
    September 28, 2009 at 15:01

    Plenty of women recognise the choices we’ve got as something good, and we choose what we think we can handle. If a woman thinks she can handle “d. all of the above”, who is Buckingham to whisper “She’s going to fail” from the wings?

  7. September 28, 2009 at 15:16

    I seriously distrust this guy’s definition of “happy.” This is just one of many “theories” to spring up in the backlash against women’s rights: let’s tell them they’re less happy than they were when they had less choice! Yeah! That’ll get them running back to their rightful places!

    The only variation of this that I’d buy is: “The world sucks. Women are more aware of the world sucking.” But the very way that it’s presented makes me think that somehow women are to blame for their unhappiness because of their freedom, and that’s infuriating.

  8. 8 anu_d
    September 28, 2009 at 15:16

    patti in cape coral
    September 28, 2009 at 12:54
    I skimmed part of the poll on women’s happiness, and they are talking about American women.

    ==>Then Ms. Krupa Thakrar should have titled this …what’s happened to American woman’s happiness”

    • 9 patti in cape coral
      September 28, 2009 at 16:03

      @ anu_d – I agree, but I would go one step further and specifiy “U.S. women” because I don’t think Latin America was included in this study, and there is a huge difference in cultures.

  9. 10 Jennifer
    September 28, 2009 at 15:19

    Re: Are women too afraid to admit that life was simpler when they didn’t have as much choice?

    It depends. Choices can be good if you make the good ones. However, sometimes people don’t. Maybe for women; this is more detrimental because some compete….

    I think for older women; the chance of being happier may be lower especially if they have not made the best choices or if they see someone making a “better” choice.

  10. 11 Anthony
    September 28, 2009 at 16:08

    Evolution suggests that women are the gatherer / mother, and the man is the hunter / protector. So women in the work place aren’t doing what they really should be, yet men have less work (since they don’t have to “hunt / protect ” as much since the woman has joined in the hunting process, and men are less likely to protect), so life is less stressful on mens bodies then they are designed for.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  11. 12 Marija Liudvika Rutkauskaite
    September 28, 2009 at 16:25

    Hello and thank you for this slot to respond.
    It is not that women can’t handle the choices they have and so are unhappier. It is a steady progres and fulfilment that are missing in most of the cases. We rarely contemplate time in terms of death when we are busy but occasionally one may think of it as a single and limited line which one is cutting. Then again one finds that what is missing is the fulfilling progress and a feeling that one is needed. When one has a manuscript unpon manuscript upon manuscript stuck with no publication, one feels frustrated. Routine work is all right but when stuck with no documented existence, one thinks ” And what will remain?” This can be exacerbated by a lack of social life. That’s it. Otherwise one can be blissfully grateful to somebody who saw to it for one to have an employment and income and a successful career. Very grateful indeed, but one does need a confirmation of the level again and again. It is not only men who will always remain boys. Thank you.
    Marija Liudvika Rutkauskaite

  12. 13 Eriko
    September 28, 2009 at 16:55

    I agree with Marcus Buckingham to some extent. Too much choices or freedom can be a torture for women because although our lifestyle has changed, our values haven’t.
    For example, in Japan, more women are working looking to their career but they are still longing to get married. So now here is a big movement called ‘marriage-hunting’, which is a play on words with job-hunting. Women are trying to get the best deal (hopefully with love).
    Women seem to be freer and sometimes happier than the past but still trapped by traditional values in the middle of nowhere.

  13. 14 Jessica in NYC
    September 28, 2009 at 16:57

    What is making me unhappy right now is ignorant men like Marcus Buckingham that think restricting and taking woman’s choices away is what’s best for us.

    Life is harder for women whether we choose to stay at home or enter the work force, but it’s not because of the choice we make but because of the double standards we must accept and learn to balance. We are not super women, but we are required to be by men. Thus, until our fight for equality has been won we will continue to have children, raise them, be the bread winners and cooks and look good while doing it in heels and make up hair and face. It’s choices we have on where to go to school, which industry work in and when to have children or get married that make me happy and a better woman.

  14. 15 Dave in Florida
    September 28, 2009 at 17:00

    It all seems to have happened in the 70’s, as stated. That is when American women decided they no longer wanted to be mothers and instead wanted to place careers ahead of their families, as well as declare war on men.

    Welcome to the club ladies — you achieved your goal, now stop complaining and blaming men for your woes.

    • 16 Cwrwda
      September 29, 2009 at 23:56

      ABsolutely well put, working for a living is more than a job, its your life.

      I often see and envy mothers who have decided to spend time with their kids, I see them down the park, they have lots of time to spend in the sun meeting other mums, whereas I HAVE to work to support my family, time is a luxury I don’t have. I accept that, however I get very annoyed when I’m attacked by the feminist media for that and the fact that some how I’m oppressing women. Self centered nonsence!

  15. September 28, 2009 at 17:05

    If women are loved by a good family, are decent looking, and are sought after by worthy men who also treat them with love, affection and as equal partners, only with the benefit of high passion, they stand a great chance of being happy. They in turn are good company for friends, harvest great meaning and purpose in their children and the man who she knows loves her. Those women have a spark, a beautiful spirit that is exuded to all the world to any and all languages. A simple look can often times explain the fine character, the liver of life being within.

    This sort of thing goes on in all cultures, all races. It starts with being happy with one’s self…..then contaminates the interpretation of the planet.

    Poor people of the land seem to have the head start, maybe because they spend more time with their loved ones, but love belongs mostly to those who are able to find great joy in honoring the ones they get to be with.

    troop on the Oregon Coast

  16. 18 nora
    September 28, 2009 at 17:41

    The seventies were when we took whatever work there was because we had a huge recession. Lucky for the guys of our generation, we were willing to share our paychecks because there was a huge recession. I had kids and jobs and no option to stay home, as maternity leave did not exist. It always cracks me up when guys think that the womens movement was more fundamental to change for my generation than a huge recession.

    The social networks of traditional support are broken down and most marriages don’t last here in the states. Women face lots of problems alone. Women do most of the care for children and the elderly and the costs and paperwork have skyrocketed.

  17. 19 Josiah Soap
    September 28, 2009 at 18:32

    I don’t think women are any unhappier. Who says so, some jumped up pyschologist, who has done an amazing test that proves it. I can see the only thing both sexes need to be unhappy about is the constant media bombardment telling us what SHOULD make you happy and the constant government intrusion into our lives telling us how we should run them.

  18. 20 Jennifer
    September 28, 2009 at 18:37

    I agree with Marcus Buckingham. Choices are good to have but if you are not making the right ones then are you positively impacting your life? An example is this:

    Is having 16 abortions something that should make a woman happy? That she had the choice to do this? That she is publishing a book about this as if it is just peachy keen? Are we stopping to think about the affects of the choices we make?

    Women can not have it both ways. Liberal feminism may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe depression is a manifestation of that realization; if one even stops to consider….

  19. 21 viola
    September 28, 2009 at 18:57

    Evolution suggests no such thing as the necessity for women to be confined to one role in life and no choices. Choices are hard. So what? Life is hard. Shall we give up life?

  20. 22 nora
    September 28, 2009 at 19:11

    Jennifer re: ‘liberal feminism is not all it is cracked up to be’

    No ideology is ‘all it is cracked up to be.’

    No single person has ever come up to me and said “I am a liberal feminist.” Why use categories to create adrenalin and polarization? Do you really think that young mothers choose to work their finger to the bone and miss their babies out of ideology rather than the need to pay the rent?

  21. 23 Michelle from Jamaica
    September 28, 2009 at 19:41

    Women need to acept who they are. We are beautiful, feminine, gentle loving caring, mothering beings. That’s how we were made. Nothing wrong with it! Once you are comfortable with being a woman, you can then be who you really want to be- the CEO, the Business owner; whoever, but you can do it and still be that gentle lovely woman. I love being a woman, hormones and all. It’s nice to have the door opened for opened for you; to have your groceries carried for you; to get the light bulb changed; I love it all!

  22. 24 Ms Roark
    September 28, 2009 at 20:14

    I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous. To ask if people are happier when they have less choice? And what is this ‘simpler life’? Life was bloody hard for women before the modern age brought technology. Women were stuck in the house sentenced to a life of menial labor, under-appreciated and considered less than the dumbest man. Until recently 50 percent of women died in childbirth!

    It’s as if American women are the only creatures to have achieved upward mobility in the last 100 years.

    Ask the same question of Black American men and women, as see if they were happier when they had less choice before the civil rights movement. And you have your answer.

  23. 25 Kat in Vancouver
    September 28, 2009 at 20:56

    It sounds like the book is based on the premise of the seen but not heard housewife of the 1950’s and 60’s America. That is a very disturbing analysis. I would love to see his study published in an academic journal.

  24. 26 Kat in Vancouver
    September 28, 2009 at 21:05

    What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be happy? The understandings of the role of woman have changed over time and evolve specific to each culture found in the world.

    Women just as man can be happy in any situation that they pick for themselves. However, if women are controlled by traditions or a by a flawed understandings gender – then happiness is subjective isn’t it? Gender and what it means to be a woman is a social construction and incredibly subjective just as they comments on this topic illustrated.

  25. 27 Tom K in Mpls
    September 28, 2009 at 21:26

    There is a valid argument here that feminists are not only creating their own hell, but they spread it to other women.

  26. September 28, 2009 at 21:34

    While not disputing that some women are unhappy, I find it interesting that the person who offers solutions is a male! I say as much in my column.


    Kristen Houghton, author of :
    “AND THEN I’LL BE HAPPY!” Amazon, Boders, Barnes and Noble

  27. 29 Jennifer
    September 28, 2009 at 21:43

    Re: Life was bloody hard for women before the modern age brought technology. Women were stuck in the house sentenced to a life of menial labor, under-appreciated and considered less than the dumbest man.

    Life has never been easy and last I checked I don’t think it’s supposed to be.

    The fact that women wanted “liberation” is our choice. Now we have to deal with our choices.

    Since when would being a parent be “menial”? Noone can make you feel dumb unless you let them. Women are not “better” than men; we are different. Both are equally important and have value.

    This is the best statement ever:

    Women need to acept who they are. We are beautiful, feminine, gentle loving caring, mothering beings. That’s how we were made. Nothing wrong with it! Once you are comfortable with being a woman, you can then be who you really want to be- the CEO, the Business owner; whoever, but you can do it and still be that gentle lovely woman.

    • 30 Cwrwda
      September 29, 2009 at 23:45

      How can there be equality when all women think about ultimately is themselves, eg. women rally to the cause of breast cancer – a fine cause, however twice as many men die of prostate cancer and do we hear of that, NO. Why can’t it be campaign by both sexes to raise the issue of cancer in general ? Is it hard to see why men feel pushed aside when we do so much these days, AND its not even recognised.

  28. 31 steve
    September 29, 2009 at 05:00

    women are just realizing that working sucks, but realize they have the option of choosing to not work, unlike most men.

    • 32 patti in cape coral
      September 29, 2009 at 12:58

      I don’t think work is optional for most women at this point. There are only so many men that can support a housewife/stay at home mom, and those men are probably choosing the youngest and most attractive of us. Most average/normal couples I know need two incomes.

  29. 33 Kat in Vancouver
    September 29, 2009 at 05:52

    It’s remarkable how the majority of men posting agree with the author without knowing the ideas represented in the book. Straight men are quick to criticize the role of women in the work place and maybe they have not yet considered that “men” might be making women unhappy?

  30. 34 scmehta
    September 29, 2009 at 07:33

    the core reason is that men and women are both becoming more & more demanding and uncompromising towards each other; demanding in the matters of money/luxury, sex, entertainment and bondage-freedom; and uncompromising in the matters of ego, opinion, likes/choices, family-links etc. The worst sufferers, in these tussles of the maladjustment, are their kids. Life was certainly happier when the couples were simple, less egoist and less demanding.

  31. 35 vijay pillai
    September 29, 2009 at 11:59

    Girls or women are so arrogant these days they have lost their femine touch of moe than 3 decades ago.. The reason is the invention of pants similar to what men wears and the old days of feminity gone with women doing men’s jobs whether in medicine,engineering or IT.Those days of more clerk and teaching jobs done by women are gone.Again the women are competing with women in fasion and charities and so on, they are now a force to be reconed with.
    Now they are seen with powerful women promoting many charities and have their star women gathering like G20, they have their own gathering ,many of the famed models and wives of leading powerful figues all put men to shade. No more nitting and jam making but they are king making or forming of govts of the day by their smart backroom moves one can only sit back and wonder how they operate.
    That meens if you have no money or power ,women tend to become depressed indeed.That is why i guess talibans keep them within their houses so they would not know the world and hence men can behave like they own the world and women are there to serve the need of men and produce kids.

  32. 36 NM
    September 29, 2009 at 14:34

    Our need to special, to be separate, and to idealize ourselves is at the root of this. Too much need, too much telling each other what to do.

    50 years ago it was simpler, but many women and their children where beaten and couldn’t work if they needed to support themselves because he wouldn’t or couldn’t.

    If we all let go of all our need and our ideas about being special we could work together to accomplish something.

    There is enormous dysfunction at the root of our human consciousness, we beat each other, people say they love Jesus but send their sons to war, we throw away enough food in the west to feed some of the tens of thousand children that die of starvation each day, the list of craziness goes on and on.

    If no one is any better than anyone else, and we put down our endless demands of our planet and each other, what can we create here?

  33. 37 jens
    September 29, 2009 at 16:05

    Well, we have such great psycho-pharamaceuticles, why not pop a pill.

    i think it is more an issue of people expecting happiness. the TV shows us how happy everybody else is and how great life is etc etc. you cannot expect happinies if you do not know sadness. it is essential to feel sad or down to appreciate when things are going well. happiness is a relative term. plenty are happy to just be able to eat, while others need a 5-star dinner to be happy.

  34. September 29, 2009 at 17:38

    Life is always simpler with fewer choices, be it a man or woman.

  35. 39 steve
    September 29, 2009 at 18:19

    I think one of the reasons there is so much unhappiness today is not knowing what one wants, and living to impress others (insecurity). If you live in a major, first world area, like Washington, DC or NYC, people are all miserable because nothing is ever enough for them, meanwhile people in other countries are happy just to eat. The misery, the self inflicted misery is low self esteem, insecurity, which winds up making you buy things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t even like.

  36. 40 Cwrwda
    September 29, 2009 at 23:32

    As a father of three and the main money earner, I still drop the kids off at school, make meals, bath them, read to them, make sure they’re healthy, AND maintain a good relationship with my partner, I am getting increasingly annoyed at the attention the media is giving to women.
    Is this day and age when sexual equality is pushed down our throats by a media that responds to a gullable easy target of women issues, I ‘m sick of it.
    WHAT ABOUT MENS HAPPINESS or is our society dominated by those that winge the loudest or are weak.

  37. September 30, 2009 at 09:01

    Today is the era of Women. A miserable life is a matter of past now.Women are able to arrange all the means of
    in their lives.

  38. 42 Guruprasad P
    October 1, 2009 at 05:14

    Accepting situations,circumstances and always living in the present is the mantra of Life. Women are no exception to this phenomenon.You can be as lively or miserable, it is all in ones hands. this is not gender specific. Learn to flow with the flow Life will be wonderful.

  39. October 6, 2009 at 15:58

    If you’re interested in a new approach to boost your happiness based on the latest positive psychology research, check out our iPhone app: Live Happy; it’s based on the work of Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of “The How of Happiness” and provides a unique method to create a personalized program to increase your happiness.

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