This shows a sad woman.
Given all this, women need to make time for themselves to protect their wellbeing. Credit: Neuroscience News

The Paradox of Progress: Why More Freedom Isn’t Making Women Happier

Summary: Despite gains in freedom and employment opportunities, research indicates women are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression, and sleep issues than before. A survey suggests that dissatisfaction with societal treatment may be a key factor.

The gender wellbeing gap widened during the pandemic but showed that women rebound faster emotionally, possibly due to stronger social connections. While facing social inequality, women report higher levels of purpose in life, often derived from altruistic activities.

Key Facts:

  1. Women across different countries and age groups are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances despite societal advances.
  2. The gender gap in well-being increased during the pandemic, but women showed greater emotional resilience, possibly due to stronger social networks.
  3. Women generally report having more purpose in their lives compared to men, often attributed to engaging in more altruistic endeavors.

Source: The Conversation

Something strange is going on in women’s happiness research. Because despite having more freedom and employment opportunities than ever before, women have higher levels of anxiety and more mental health challenges, such as depression, anger, loneliness and more restless sleep. And these results are seen across many countries and different age groups.

A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association may hold some clues as to why. The results found that most US women are unhappy with how society treats them.

Credit: Neuroscience News

Many women are still the main caregivers for children and elderly relatives. Most also have the double burden of managing the home and family arrangements on top of paid work responsibilities. And within the workplace three in five women have experienced bullying, sexual harassment or verbal abuse.

The gender gap in wellbeing was notably documented during the pandemic, as many women took on more domestic and caregiving responsibilities on top of work. But it was also noted that although women took a bigger hit to their wellbeing they were quicker to recover, which seems to indicate thatwomen are more emotionally resilient than men.

One of the factors that may contribute towards women’s resilience is social connection. In one 2019 study, researchers found that women scored higher than men for positive relationships with others as well as capacity for personal growth. In essence, women tend to be better than men at getting support. They ask for help sooner and so are more likely to overcome adversity quicker.

Women have also been found to place greater value on social connections than men. Studies have found that women’s friendships are more intimate – women favour face-to-face interactions that enable more self-disclosure and emotional support. Whereas men’s friendships tend to be more side by side, pursuing shared activities. Think catching up watching a football match versus catching up over coffee. Again this may explain the buffer to women’s mental health.

Happiness versus purpose

Although women may not be as happy in the moment as men and face greater social inequality, a recent study suggests that women report having more purpose in their lives. And having meaning and purpose in life is associated with better health and living longer.

The study found that women tend to engage in more altruistic endeavours, such as supporting others and charity volunteering which leads to a greater sense of meaning and purpose.

However, the researchers also point out that this is likely linked to cultural norms of women being encouraged to put the needs of others first. While putting others first does not necessarily make you happier, having a sense of meaning in life definitely contributes towards happiness.

Given all this, women need to make time for themselves to protect their wellbeing. Here are four evidence-based ways to help you do this:

1. Try therapy

Having a place just for you, where you can talk about how you feel and express your emotions is important for your psychological wellbeing. Art-based therapies are particularly beneficial for women as are group-based interventions that allow women to speak openly with other women – which can reduce feelings of stigma and shame.

2. Connect with nature

Spending time outdoors in natural settings can be very comforting. A recent study found that nature-based interventions are particularly healing for women who have experienced trauma or illness . Indeed, as women, our biology and values often align with the natural world. The term “Mother Earth” reflects the feminine tendency to be life-giving and nurturing.

So make sure you factor some time outside in nature into your daily or weekly plans. A walk on the beach, a run through the woods or reading a book in the park, it all helps.

3. Move yourself

Studies show that when women engage in regular physical activity it increases self-acceptance and personal growth. Aerobic exercise is particularly helpful for cognitive health as women age. High impact, weight-bearing exercise such as jumping and running improve bone health for women in middle age and regular moderate exercise, such as walking has been shown to improve symptoms of the menopause.

4. Cut down on alcohol

Women face gender-specific risks related to alcohol, including a greater risk of being a victim of violence and more health-related issues such as heart disease and breast cancer. Women also become intoxicated quicker than men which can make them more vulnerable.

Given that women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety, reducing or eliminating alcohol may be sensible. Indeed, research shows quitting alcohol can significantly improve women’s health and happiness.

About this psychology research news

Author: Lowri Dowthwaite-Walsh
Source: The Conversation
Contact: Lowri Dowthwaite-Walsh – The Conversation
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

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  1. I love how all the least happy women are the most mad about being told this. Of course they are, because if they even stop to listen to that little voice that tells them “it’s true” then they will have to admit that the very ideology they spent their lives on, resulted in universally less happy women AND men.

    What if traditions which developed over thousands of years did so, not because the backwards people just weren’t as brilliant and kind as YOU, but because it was found to make everyone the happiest doing the tasks that they were best suited to?

    What if modern “progressives” really aren’t progressing at all? Sure seems like everyone keeps getting less happy the more ideas our culture takes from this ideology.

    So of course, block your ears. Truly progressive stuff

  2. This is conservative propaganda not science. Women 1.have more authority to speak out than ever before and 2. their ailments re no longer discounted as often by medical professionals as they used to. This is why we are hearing that they are unhappy. Before they were miserable but were either not govdn a voice or were ignored. And “women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety”?? Please come into 2023 where we recognize that the high rates of suicide in men are linked to their high undiagnosed rates of anxiety and depression – as high if not higher than women. This article hurts men and women – but it does serve the man=strong /woman=weak propaganda of cavemen who refuse to evolve with the rest of humanity.

  3. The author conveniently left out how women have given up femininity because of feminism. This well known as a problem being discussed in many circles. 50% of women 30 years old have no children. They have been told by feminist ideology that anything having to do with traditional female activities is sexist and archaic. No fault divorce gives women license to break up marriages and families simply because they choose to. They are given jobs due to quotas and are automatically assumed to be right in any alleged violence by men. Men have now become afraid to marry or deal with women in general. Many women end up not marrying due to the new feminist rules and end up with no good marriage or children. There are support groups for these can women be bullied more at work when sexual harassment has been turned into a vicious weapon against men? The writer of this article has been very disingenuous and continuing the woman as a victim narrative. Funny the writer did not mention how so many women now use only fans as a means of material gain and how today female promiscuity is accept dcas normal. This was not the norm for women throughout human history until feminism rolled around. The modern western societies tell women to value career over family and be masculine. When so many woman are behaving unnaturally there is no wonder so many women are more miserable. The writer is obviously following the Zeitgeist by not placing any responsibility on women for accepting feminist ideology.

  4. Women have taken on bigger roles. Almost like the men from previous generations and the men or younger men not all were raised to be men. That simple. Treat a woman like a woman. Nothing wrong with that. I am a baby boomer. Open a door for a lady, and ladies let them do it.

  5. Living with stigma and shames are the main reasons people supercede others in society and even runaway to make better family in overseas oh
    See psychology can’t solve my problem I can be tricky or outwitting but they all do that therefore wizardry but I am exempted as a control group yes never change yes R me that…

  6. Strange way to spend public funds. What exactly is the scientific purpose of such study? It clearly sounds more like political propaganda than anything.

  7. This effect is probably more to do with the fact that less women are committing suicide.
    When I was a girl it was very common for women to kill themselves by turning the gas on and putting their head in the oven :-(

  8. Women’s unhappiness isn’t a result of freedom. Men and Women are unhappy in general. Shame on you for blaming the women’s freedom

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