A new global survey reports that men are happier with wealth, while women find greater happiness in friendships and family, co-workers and their bosses. Yet the survey may not have asked the right questions.

The online survey of more than 28,000 people in more than 51 countries by global marketing firm Nielsen, found that women are happier than men in 48 of the 51 countries surveyed in April 2008, and only in Brazil, South Africa and Vietnam were men found to be happier than women.

Japanese women reported the greatest difference with a 15% higher level of happiness than men, and women were more optimistic about their future, and content with their sex lives in that country. Men were generally happier with their physical health than women, particularly in South Africa. Men rated their happiness with their mental health higher than women generally, with the highest scores in Belgium, South Korea, Mexico, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Israel.

Nielsen reported that there were several main drivers of happiness, according to the measures in their survey: Personal financial situation, mental health and job/career and happiness with your life partner. Nielsen found that the Indonesians and Lithuanians were the most reliant on their personal financial situation and job for happiness, while South Africans and Venezuelans ranked them the lowest.
Nielsen also looked closely at survey results to find out if a nation's happiness level was influenced by low-income inequality, low corruption or peace. Surprisingly, markets, which performed poorly on these factors, were in many cases the happiest nations.

Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa supports the arguments that status, money and political power influence happiness levels for men, whereas family and relationships are the most important for women. Kanazawa says that the differences between men and women are a result of millions of years of evolution. In an article for Psychology Today, Kanazawa says "the best way for people to become happier is to get in touch with their animal nature," and "Destroy all political correctness completely once and for all. Teach boys and girls that they are different, not the same, and that it's okay to be different."

What makes the Nielsen survey most interesting is not the reported differences between men and women or among countries, it's what the survey didn't ask. Researchers and psychologists Martin Seligman, Ed Dierner, Sonja Lyubomirsky and Barbara Fredrickson and economist John Helliwell, have concluded that genetic predisposition accounts for 50% of levels of happiness among men and women, and that 40% of levels of happiness come about as a result of behaviors that can be changed by individuals. The happiness experts concluded further that happiness is not primarily affected by external environmental conditions such as wealth or jobs, but rather result from internal factors such as optimism, gratitude and a commitment to living a meaningful life.

While the global survey has produced some valuable data regarding gender and cultural differences, it's unfortunate the survey was not structured to incorporate the latest research evidence.

Author's Bio: 

Ray B. Williams is Co-Founder of Success IQ University and President of Ray Williams Associates, companies located in Phoenix and Vancouver, providing leadership training, personal growth and executive coaching services. www.successiqu.com