Happiness, well-being tied to the lives of others

By Candy Lashkari

Professor Jacqueline Scott led the study which compiled the views of more than 10,000 people over a time frame of five years at Cambridge University. The study which appears in a new book, Gender Inequalities in the 21st Century found that most people were linking their happiness with that of people close to them.

Most policy-making on happiness has focused on improving conditions for individuals. Our research suggests that more should be done to support the actions of both men and women in caring for others, because that will have benefits for everybody's quality of life." said Jacqueline Scott.

The study also found that men were more likely to associate finance with well being with 38% men considering it important to happiness as compared 33 % women. On the other hand 57% women considered health more important as compared to 50% men. The role of the family in happiness was considered important by 49% women as compared to 38% men.

However closer study of the responses found that the respondents were merely linking their happiness to that of the people closest to them in very gender specific ways. For instance as men saw themselves as the bread winners of the family they were happy if the finances were in order. While with women who tend to consider themselves the care takers of the family the health of children and elders affected their happiness more.

Dr Anke Plagnol, one of the report's co-authors, said: ''Men and women both seem to be linking their ideas about well-being to the lives of others, perhaps to a greater extent than we might have expected. That is something policy-makers should be taking into consideration, by ensuring that provision is made to enable both men and women to spend reasonable amounts of time with their families.''

More than 10,300 adults from 5,500 household in the UK were surveyed on what affects the quality of their lives between 1997 and 2002 as part of the British Household Panel Survey. More than a third of the respondents chose health, family and finance as important factors for securing a good quality life. Researchers say that the government should consider this before making fresh policies that may affect the sense of well being of the British families.

"Men and women may view happiness differently, but when you dig deeper and look at the nature of their perceptions, you find that in both cases their well-being is bound up with that of others.” said Jacqueline Scott

Reducing worker hours so that individuals could spend more time with their families was a major key to happiness. Perhaps increased paternity leave for fathers of babies and more recognition for members who give up full time careers to look after disabled children will also influence the general sense of well being of the society.

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