Happiness Across the Life Span, Gender and happiness, Marriage and happiness, other facts of life

Happiness is an emotion of joy, gladness, satisfaction, and well-being. Circumstances of our lives influence our level of happiness. Think about happiness across the life span such Childhood, teen age, now the adulthood and the old age.

“Paradox of well-being” -Life circumstances & demographic variables have weaker relationship to happiness (Mroczek & Kolarz, 1998). It does not  mean life circumstances are unimportant.  Certainly, poverty is stressful. Loneliness is painful. Major illness is distressing.

This means that objective factors do relate to happiness, but the relationship is actually quite small. Knowing a person’s income, age, gender, and marital status won’t tell you much about how happy the person is.

Happiness is a subjective psychological state that depends more on the quality, rather than the quantity, of our lives.



  • If you were asked to pick the period in your life when you would probably be happiest, and the period when you would probably be least happy, what might you guess? ? If you are a college student, would you guess that right now is the happiest time of your life?
  • Would you guess the turbulent teenage years when you were dealing with puberty and trying to fit in with your peers  as the least happy period? Let’s go through the different stages of happiness across the life span.
  • Most college alumni have fond memories of their college days (Baumgardner, 1989, 2001) because, compared to the world of work, college is recalled as a time of less responsibility, more freedom, and more fun.
  • Full-time work certainly brings its share of satisfaction, but few alumni describe work as “fun!” In hindsight, many alumni regard college as one of the happier times in their lives.
  • Surveys show that most people assume these two stages are the most unhappy and least rewarding times in life.
  • They viewed teen years as a period of “storm and stress,” and people tend to associate old age with declining incomes, social disengagement, and failing health.
  • However, research actually shows that these longstanding beliefs are both mistaken.
  • Adolescence has not been found to be an unhappy period of life compared to other ages. Regarding happiness in old age, we tend to hold negative expectations about aging.
  • Affective forecasting is the study of people’s predictions about the emotional effects of future life events. people consistently overestimate the impact of both positive and negative events.
  • To evaluate the accuracy of an affective forecast, researchers compare an individual’s predictions about the emotional impact of specific events to the real life reactions of people who actually experience those events.


  • Who is happier—men or women? The overall answer seems to be neither. Large-scale surveys find that women and men report approximately the same levels of happiness
  • Men and women are, on average, equally likely to report feeling happy and satisfied with their lives as a whole. For example, one study of 18,000 college students representing 39 different countries found no significant gender differences (Michalos, 1991). Even studies that do report gender differences also report that the differences are small in magnitude.
  • In the meta-analytic review of research, Haring, Stock, and Okun (1984) concluded that men showed a slight tendency to report higher levels of well-being than women.
  • On the other hand, a meta-analysis by Wood, Rhodes, and Whelan (1989) reported a similar, slight tendency toward more happiness, but for women rather than men. The emphasis here is on the word “slight.”
  • Two other reviews show that gender accounts for less than 1% of the difference in people’s reported levels of well-being. In other words, knowing a person’s gender won’t tell you much about his or her happiness.
  • Yet there are significant differences in the emotional lives of men and women, as affirmed by everyday experience.
  • The fact of overall similarity in happiness and the differences in emotional experiences creates an apparent paradox of gender, (“Overtly prescribed women conform more closely than men to sociolinguistic norms, but conform less than men when they are not.”) similar to the paradox of aging (despite more loss and disability associated with age, life satisfaction and happiness increase with successive decades.).


  • The marriage–happiness relationship has consistently been demonstrated in large-scale surveys of Americans and Europeans. A meta-analytic review of nearly 100 studies found marriage to be a strong predictor of life satisfaction, happiness, and overall well-being.
  • The positive effects of marriage are large. One national survey of 35,000 people in the United States found that the percentage of married adults who said they were “very happy” (40%). It was nearly double that of those who never married (26%).
  • Compared to other domains of life (such as job status and health), being married and having a family repeatedly show the strongest connection to life satisfaction and happiness.
  • Baumeister and Leary’s (1995)argue that human beings have a basic “need to belong“. People consistently rank close relationships among their top life goals.
  • Given that marriage is one major vehicle for fulfillment of this basic need, it would follow that married people would report higher levels of well-being and happiness. Marriage has the potential to provide companionship, intimacy, love, affection, and social support in times of crisis.
  • The roles of spouse and parent may also provide opportunities for personal growth. And also the development of new competencies that increase self-esteem and satisfaction.


  • The connection between SWB and physical/emotional health is a two-way street. Happiness contributes to our health and health contributes to our happiness.
  • The impact of SWB on physical health is shown in the associations between happiness and longer life, lower susceptibility to disease, and better recovery from illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.
  • The influence of positive and negative emotions on immune-system functioning undoubtedly plays a role in these relationships. The state of our physical health also affects our level of happiness. Illness and injury involve pain and distress, and may limit our opportunities to engage in pleasurable activities.
  • Negative emotions may increase and positive emotions may decrease as a result of illness.
  • The heightened levels of distress, negative emotions, and anxiety associated with mental disorders cause low life satisfaction and a lack of personal happiness.
  • An individual’s emotional problems may also cause distress among family, caregivers and supportive friends. Mental illness within a family can have a negative impact on the entire family’s well-being.



Positive Psychology. Baumgardner and Crothers. 2015. Pearson India Education.

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