IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


The Female Happiness Paradox

04 May 2022, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Upset mother crying sat down by her bed. Claudia Wolff/Unsplash.

Join this event to hear Professor Alex Bryson discuss his and Professor David Blanchflower's working paper that shows that women are unhappier than men in unhappiness and negative affect equations.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Francesca Foliano


55-59 Gordon Square

In this event, Alex will explain the paper's findings and that irrespective of the measure used – anxiety, depression, fearfulness, sadness, loneliness, anger – women have more days with bad mental health and more restless sleep. Women are also less satisfied with many aspects of their lives such as democracy, the economy, the state of education and health services. They are also less happy in the moment in terms of peace and calm, cheerfulness, feeling active, vigorous, fresh and rested. 

However, prior evidence on gender differences in global wellbeing metrics – happiness and life satisfaction – is less clear cut. Differences vary over time, location, and with model specification and the inclusion of controls especially marital status. 

The paper also shows that there are significant variations by month in happiness data regarding whether males are happier than females but find little variation by month in unhappiness data. It matters which months are sampled when measuring positive affect but not with negative affect. These monthly data reveal that women’s happiness was more adversely affected by the COVID shock than men’s, but also that women’s happiness rebounded more quickly suggesting resilience. 

As a result, the paper finds strong evidence that males have higher levels of both happiness and life satisfaction in recent years even before the onset of pandemic. As in the past they continue to have lower levels of unhappiness. A detailed analysis of several data files, with various metrics, for the UK confirms that men now are happier than women.

This event will be particularly useful for those interested in gender economics, gender equality and labour economics.

N.B. This is a hybrid event and you can attend either virtually or in-person.

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Covid-19 measures

To minimise Covid-related risks for in-person attendees at our events we will facilitate social distancing where possible. In-person attendees will be required to pre-register to gain entry to the event. We strongly encourage attendees to wear a mask while in our buildings. We ask that those registered for our events do not attend in-person if they are showing respiratory symptoms. Thank you for your co-operation.

About the Speaker

Professor Alex Bryson

Chair Of Quantitative Social Science at UCL Social Research Institute

He is an applied labour economist with a background in sociology and his research focuses on work and employment relations.

More about Professor Alex Bryson