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Men and women experience happiness differently, here's why


Who is happier, men or women? Research shows that it is a complicated question, and that asking whether men or women are more comfortable is not useful because, in essence, happiness is different for women and men.

The happiness of women has been declining for the past 30 years, according to recent statistics. And research shows that women are twice as likely to experience depression compared to men. Gender differences in depression are well established, and studies have found that biological, psychological, and social factors contribute to the disparity.

But research also shows that women are more likely to experience intense and positive emotions, such as joy and happiness, compared to men. Then, it seems that the most intense positive feelings of women balance their higher risk of depression. Research also shows that women are more likely to try to get help and access treatment, allowing them to recover earlier.

The first studies on gender and happiness found that men and women were socialized to express different emotions. Women are more likely to show happiness, warmth and fear, which helps to establish social bonds, and seems to be more consistent with the traditional role of primary caregiver, while men show more anger, pride and contempt, which are more consistent with the role of protector and provider. .


Recent research suggests that these differences are not only social, but also genetically installed. In numerous studies, women score higher than men on standard tests of emotion recognition, social sensitivity and empathy.

Neurological imaging studies have investigated these findings more thoroughly and found that females use more areas of the brain that contain mirror neurons than males when they process emotions. Mirror neurons allow us to experience the world from the perspective of other people, to understand their actions and intentions. This may explain why women may experience a deeper sadness.

Psychologically, it seems that men and women differ in the way they process and express emotions. Except for anger, women experience emotions more intensely and share their emotions more openly with others. Studies have found in particular that women express more pro-social emotions, such as gratitude, which has been linked to greater happiness. This supports the theory that women's happiness depends more on relationships than men's happiness.

The angle problem

However, within these studies there is an important blind spot, which is that women often feel anger as intensely as men, but they do not express it openly, as it is not considered socially acceptable.

When men feel angry, they are more likely to vocalize and direct it to others, while women are more likely to internalize and direct anger toward themselves. Women ruminate instead of talking. And this is where the vulnerability of women to stress and depression lies.

Studies show that men have greater problem-solving skills and cognitive flexibility, which can contribute to a greater capacity for recovery and a positive mood. Women's reactivity to stress makes it harder for them to challenge their thinking at times, and this can exasperate the symptoms of bad mood.


This inequality of happiness means that it is harder for women to maintain a happy state when faced with social expectations and limitations. Research on stress shows that women are more physically reactive to social rejection than men, for example. This means that they are more likely to prioritize the needs of others over their own, and over time, this can generate resentment and feel dissatisfied.

In general, women prioritize doing the right thing instead of being happy, while men are better at seeking pleasure and hedonism. Studies have also found that women tend to act more ethically than men, and are more likely to experience feelings of shame if they are not seen to be doing "the right thing". But the feminine moral also takes them to participate in a more satisfactory and impressive work. And this, ultimately, brings them greater joy, peace and satisfaction.

As you can see, it's a complicated image. Yes, women are more sensitive to stress, more vulnerable to depression and trauma, but they are also incredibly resilient and much more capable of post-traumatic growth, compared to men. Studies show that this is due to their sociability and ability to connect at a deeper level with others, both men and women.

It is also important to recognize that despite these differences, the benefits of happiness are powerful for both women and men.

And that research shows that happiness is not merely the function of individual experience, but the waves through social networks. Happiness is contagious and contagious, and has a positive impact on the health and well-being of everyone.

– The conversation

* Lowri Dowthwaite is a professor of psychological interventions at the University of Central Lancashire.

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