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Women Are Happier Than Men, Science Finds

One researcher explains the power of the "happiness gene."

By Kristin Wong Aug 28, 2012 2:58PM

Photo: Paul Bradbury/Getty ImagesEarlier this year, a study found that women are happiest when men can empathize with their sadness. For men, the key to happiness is a bit simpler—they're happy when women are happy.

Well, there's good news for guys. Women, apparently, are quite happy. In fact, we're happier than most men, according to research from the University of Florida.

The Heart Beat talked to Dr. Henian Chen, a lead scientist in a recent study titled, "The MAOA Gene Predicts Happiness."

Chen and his researchers interviewed 350 men and women and measured their happiness on a scale of one to seven.

"We measured happiness by a widely used and validated happiness scale developed by scientists at University of California," Dr. Henian tells us.

From there, they took saliva samples from each of the 350 subjects, testing their DNA. Chen's work explains that the MAOA gene comes in two forms—a highly active type and a less active type. Women with the less active type were happier than others, and women with two copies of the "happy" type of MAOA were even happier.

But bad news for boyfriends, not only did less of them have the MAOA gene, when they did have the gene, it didn't seem to affect their happiness. Apparently, it only works for women. Chen explained that testosterone could possibly obscure the effects of the gene in men:

"Maybe men are happier before adolescence because their testosterone level is lower," Chen said.

The MAOA gene has made headlines in the past, known for causing aggressive behavior.

"It's even called the warrior gene by some scientists," Henian explains.

The gene affects the part of the brain involved with emotion, so it may help explain why women are generally thought to be the more excitable, emotional sex.

The MAOA gene is also responsible for fluctuating moods. So men, if your partner seems to be fine one minute and upset with something the next (guilty!), you're likely not imagining things. Men's immunity to the gene could also explain why they're generally considered to be the calmer sex. I know I've occasionally felt like my partner is uninterested because he doesn't display the same level of excitement as I do. But apparently, I'm just more genetically predisposed for happiness than he is.

It's not news that men and women are wired differently, but this gene further clarifies the differences, and it can help shed a light on relationship behavior.

In his study's abstract, Chen also points out that couples who are married tend to be happier overall:

"A study by Helliwell in 2003 showed that the highest subjective well-being level was associated with being married."

Indeed, quite a few studies have linked marriage to well-being. So based on the information, it might be safe to deduce that married women are the happiest demographic out there.

When we asked Dr. Chen why this study was important, he told us that most studies focus on extreme behavior. He wanted to study something that could apply to everyone: 

"We need more studies on positive feeling (psychology) for normal people because most of us are normal."

Photo: Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

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Aug 29, 2012 4:05PM

 For men, the key to happiness is a bit simpler—they're happy when women are happy

(quoted text)



 Counterstrike-When Numbnuts and I were first married, I was young, cute, upbeat, and took pleasure in the littlest things, like presenting him with a meal and a clean house(despite my job) and a cold soda when he got home from work, and I was HAPPY to do it! I didn't want a diamond engagement ring, I didn't have an expensive wedding, I don't do nails, wear expensive clothing, and most important, I didn't bring ANY outstanding bills into the marriage.  In fact, I brought assets.  Was he happy?NOPE, so I call BULL-POOPY on the above.

Aug 29, 2012 1:37PM
Woman are so self absorbed.  It is all about me me me and it's embarrassing
Aug 29, 2012 1:35PM

Divorce rates are climbing! Are we better off now that women are working? How is that ERA thing doing?


Aug 29, 2012 1:31PM

I'm VERY happy that he is never home...less work for me and I have enough as it is.

Aug 29, 2012 1:26PM
this will sound very crude and simplistic but its true. 

if everyone wanted to bang guys like almost all straight men want to bang women, men would be happy too.

If everyone smiled at me all the time and opened doors etc i would be much happier in life, not to say I am not "happy" but give me a break, TAKE A GOOD LOOK AT OUR SOCIETY. 

IS anyone REALLY surprised at these findings? if you are your blind.
Aug 29, 2012 1:05PM

Wow!  I'm surprised at all the women haters i'm reading her on this post!  If you men who are hating on women so much, hate us so much, why don't you find yourselves another man to make miserable?

By the way, this is the year 2012.  Most women work to support their families, many work multiple jobs.  Also, there are more stay at home Dads than there ever were. 


Aug 29, 2012 1:01PM
I can guarantee more women take anti depressants than men.
Aug 29, 2012 12:54PM

Women are happier 'cause they live with men.  Men are less happy cause we live with women.  Nuff said.

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