BBC's Business Matters interviews Stevenson on declining female happiness

April 11, 2013

Business Matters, a program of the BBC World Service, interviewed Betsey Stevenson about the disparity between happiness of women and men around the world. According to data on the changing happiness of women during the last three decades, Stevenson says, women have experienced a decline in happiness relative to men.

"Even in countries where everyone's life is improving—where their life satisfaction is going up—what we saw is that it was going up more for men than for women," Stevenson told the BBC.

Stevenson calls this "the paradox of declining female happiness," because the cause is not entirely clear. Stevenson outlines several possible explanations—including social changes that impact men and women differently, or an evolution in women's definition of happiness—but ultimately says the phenomenon remains a puzzle.

The change is troubling, Stevenson points out, because gains in happiness for women have failed to keep pace with relative increases in their responsibilities and expectations.

"When I was in high school the song was 'girls just want to have fun'," and what we are learning today is girls are not having any."

[Listen to the story]