* This Greater Good section, Research Digests, offers short summaries of recent studies on happiness, empathy, compassion, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we review the research so you don’t have to! Subscribe to the Research Digests RSS feed to receive future digests.
Men Become More Helpful as They Age
"Help to Family and Friends: Are There Gender Differences at Older Ages?"
Kahn, J.R., McGill, B.S., Bianchi, S.M. Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 73 (1), February 2011, 77-92.
Studies have repeatedly shown that women provide more assistance to family and friends than do men. Yet this study found that the gender gap narrows later in life. Looking at more than 5,000 men and women in their 50s and 60s, the researchers found that women were more likely to provide help to others—including to parents, adult children, and non-relatives—but men closed the gap as they aged, particularly in caring for adult children or friends, though not necessarily for elderly parents. The researchers link this trend to men retiring from the workforce. Where does the gender gap remain? Women were still found to provide significantly more emotional support—as opposed to “material support,” like help around the yard and house—than men. —Na’amah Razon
Why the World’s Poor are Happier than You Think
"Subjective Well-Being and National Satisfaction: Findings from a Worldwide Survey."
Morrison, M., Tay, L., Diener, E. Psychological Science, Vol. 22 (2), February 2011, 166-171.
Why do people in poorer countries report greater happiness than people in many of the world’s wealthier nations? This study provides an intriguing answer. Drawing on data from a survey administered around the world, researchers found that people’s satisfaction with their country can overflow into their personal life satisfaction and positively affect their overall happiness. The link between national and personal satisfaction was strongest in the poorest countries, among people with the lowest incomes and the fewest household conveniences. For these people, it is easier to idealize their country than their less than ideal daily standard of living, and this idealized view of their country then influences their assessment of their own life satisfaction. The authors suggest that given these findings, programs to improve citizens’ quality of life should include efforts to boost their satisfaction with their country. —Neha John-Henderson
The Benefits of Bringing Work Home
"Work-family Interpersonal Capitalization: Sharing Positive Work Events at Home."
Ilies, R., Keeney, J., Scott, B.A. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 114 (2), March 2011, 115-126.
We are always told to leave work at the office. Yet this study offers an important caveat. Researchers examined how satisfied people were with their jobs, recording the number and intensity of positive events at work and their impact on employees’ job satisfaction and overall happiness. The results show that the number of positive work events and the intensity of these events improve job satisfaction. But interestingly, the most significant factor in improving job satisfaction was sharing news of a positive work event with one’s partner at home. —Na’amah Razon