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Is it harder to be a woman now than 50 years ago?

As strange as it may sound, despite the advances in womens rights (and elevation in position in society) that feminism has brought, studies have shown that women are now generally less happy than they were 40-50 years ago.

Now that statement should be qualified by the acknowledgment that “happiness” is, in of itself, not something that can be easily quantified. So in that regard, measuring happiness is not an exact science. None-the-less, studies do seem to indicate that women are starting to find themselves less happy in the modern world than they had before.

What are these studies showing?

Studies conducted on the happiness gap in the 1970s (which involved men and women from all over the world) revealed that women were slightly more satisfied with their lives than men in general. However, this seems to be where the good news ends for women.

The most recent surveys from 2013, seem to suggest that the average woman is now actually slightly less happier than the average man. Not only that, but according to researchers from Princeton University, this trend of “sagging happiness” seems to be showing signs of continuing. So it may be the case that your grandmother may have had it better than you after all.

But my grandmother had less than me?

That depends on what you mean by “less”. One of the key components of anyones well-being is leisure time. We all need it …not only to make us feel good, but also to relax and relieve us from the unpleasant work we have to do in life. And right now, you probably have a lot less leisure time than your grandmother did.

The women’s movement might actually be partly to blame for this change because women have gradually replaced housework with salary-based work as more jobs became available for them. Unfortunately, the amount of time that women spend on paid work, which is generally considered an unpleasant activity, tends to eat away at their leisure time as well.

Conversely, men nowadays seem to have started to cut back on unpleasant activities and tend to have more leisure time than women. So in this regard, the roles have reversed …helping to explain the change in the happiness statistics.

Women Nowadays Have More “Unfinished Tasks”

One of the leading theories put forth as to why women are less happy now than they were 40-50 years ago is that modern women have a longer list of unfinished tasks at the end of each day. Work outside the home creates this effect as opposed to the work your grandmother did in the home.

Unfinished tasks make us feel like life is getting on top of us. Not only that, but there is a difference between having unfinished tasks where you have someone to answer to for not getting them done (i.e. your boss at work) …as opposed to unfinished tasks where you have only yourself or your husband to answer to (which is what your grandmother would have had in the home).

Comparison Is A Killer

Finally, a separate study conducted by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers from the University of Pennsylvania leads Ms. Stevenson to state that women also didn’t have such lofty ambitions in the past and often drew comparisons only with other women and not with men. This seems to have created a psychological reason why women are less satisfied in modern times than they were in the past.

However, when you analyze all of this – there is good news. Essentially there are 3 key components which can eat away at the modern womans’ happiness. They are:

  1. Reduction in leisure time

  2. Unfinished tasks

  3. Comparison with other people

Points 1 and 3 are relatively easily overcome …once you realize that you are doing them. Point 2 on the other hand is not something that you can in of itself always reduce, but what you can change is the way you view unfinished tasks. You need to reduce the stress you associate with unfinished tasks and free yourself from their negative influence in this way. 

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