Following on this study and this article which show that women are less happy than men, I thought I would examine some of the data from our website, YourMorals.org. Clearly our data is not representative of the population, so we cannot make any claims as to the validity of the trend which the authors describe. The trend they established, whereby women, who were once happier than men, have become less happy than men over time, is very well researched. What we can potentially do is examine whether one distinctive group of women, women who visit our website, happen to report more or less life satisfaction than men who visit our website.
As you can see, women actually report more life satisfaction (which is different than happiness, but the authors of the study use both life satisfaction and happiness questions to make their point) than men in our sample and the trend is robust across questions, meaning that women score as ‘more satisfied’ on all five of the questions on Diener’s Satisfaction with Life Scale, the measure we use on YourMorals.org. Further, the graphs below, broken down by the source of visitors to our site, show that the effect is somewhat robust, meaning that it’s likely not just an oddity of traffic from one particular source. Women who come from search engines (eg. by looking for ‘morality quiz’) or who read the NY times or who read BeliefNet’s conservative blog site all seem to be more satisfied than their male counterparts.
So what does this tell us? Obviously since our data is non-representative and non-longitudinal, we can’t say much about the original hypothesis. However, if we believe the original hypothesis that women are generally less satisfied with life than men, we can perhaps learn something from this group where women seem to do relatively well on scores of life satisfaction. The authors didn’t really come up with a mechanism for the decline of happiness measures among women and so perhaps inspecting a group that does relatively well can give us clues to the mechanism in the same way that observing that people who have darker skin have less risk for skin cancer can tell us about the mechanism of skin cancer.
What do the women who visit yourmorals.org have in common? Measurably, our sample is liberal (2.5 on a 7 point scale with 1 being very liberal and 7 being very conservative), younger (mean age = 37.6), very well educated (mean education is somewhere between college educated and having completed some graduate school), and politically attentive (the great majority either pay some attention or a lot of attention to politics). Less measurably (we do have measures, but not for all visitors), our visitors likely have curiosity (see Todd Kashdan’s book), intellectual desire, and the time to explore those interests. Perhaps the clue to increasing the subjective well being of women lies somewhere in there.