Age takes glow off women's happiness: study

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Young women are happier than their male peers, but as the years roll by and they become less able to achieve lasting love and financial goals, women often end up the sadder sex, according to an international study.

A dancer watches before an amateur dancesport show in Bueu, northern Spain, June 3, 2007. REUTERS/Miguel Vidal

The research, by Anke Plagnol of the University of Cambridge in England and University of Southern California economist Richard Easterlin, used data spanning several decades about U.S. men and women to examine the role of unfulfilled desires.

The study found that when it comes to family and finances, women are, on average, happier than men in early adulthood, but after the age of 48, men’s overall happiness exceeds women’s happiness.

“In later life it is men who come closer to fulfilling their aspirations, are more satisfied with their family lives and financial situations, and are the happier of the two,” said Plagnol.

Women and men have similar life goals when it comes to love, with nine out of 10 people of both genders wanting a happy marriage, revealed the study that is to be published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

“Differences between men and women in aspirations for marriage and children are fairly small,” said Plagnol. “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, the researchers explained.

But, after the age of 34, men are more likely to be married than women, and the gap only widens with age. Men also become more satisfied with their financial situations over time, as they are able to buy luxury items such as cars and vacation homes due to increased spending power.

“Of course, one doesn’t have to be married to be happy, but if that’s something you really want - and it is for most people - then the failure to attain it can have an impact on your overall happiness,” Plagnol said, adding that those in a relationship also tend to be in a stronger financial position.

Writing by Miral Fahmy, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith