What's Happening to Women's Happiness?
Looking beyond pure survey data, the World Health Organization can track what this increase in stress does to a woman's mental health. According to their most recent analysis, depression is the second most debilitating disease for women (heart disease is first), while for men depression clocks in at number ten. As a result, women choose to medicate themselves with anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication twice as much as men do. Never one to miss an opportunity, the big pharmaceutical companies nurse this need by targeting two-thirds of all advertising of these medications explicitly toward women.
"Hey," you might say. "Life's tough. Deal with it." And of course, you'd be right. Life is not designed with anyone's happiness in mind, and it has the disconcerting habit of not rewarding the good as much as we'd expect, of punishing the wicked less vigorously than we'd like, and even, on occasion, of getting the two completely mixed up.
Even so, only the most wasted of cynics would deny that something's got to give. Not only is this "tough life" significantly tougher on women than it is on men, but the advances of the last 40 years were supposed to have changed things for the better. And not just for womankind, but for each individual woman. The hard-won rights, opportunities, and advantages were supposed to have netted women more than just another burdensome role to play—"you at work." They were supposed to have fostered in each woman feelings of fulfillment and happiness, and even, for the special few, the sustained thrill of living of an authentic life.
This hasn't happened. Over the last 40 years or so, life is not trending toward more fulfillment for women; life is, in most ways we can measure, becoming more draining instead. To use Thomas Jefferson's words, though women now have the liberty to choose whichever life they'd like, many are struggling in their pursuit of a happy life.