Life Narratives and Happiness

Here’s a TED Talk about a 75-year-old longitudinal study of what keeps people happier and healthier.

It makes logical sense, but I kept having this nagging feeling about the sample–724 men. (Race is not identified, so I tend to assume that the sample comprised white men).  It also included no women. None? Well, in a passing comment we’re told:

When, about a decade ago, we finally asked the wives if they would join us as members of the study, many of the women said, “You know, it’s about time.”

True, very true. But it was just wives of the surviving subjects who were invited in. And I can see that you can’t mess up your sample, and you have no control over the original sample that was taken at a time when the masculine gender was thought to include the feminine. All that is fine. But why, then, are the conclusions presented in 2017 as if they were applicable to “people” in general–that is to say, to us, the viewers. whatever our gender may be?

I know, I know, we can’t change history. But do I have to trust the narrative that chooses to study one half of a population and then applies its findings to all of us? Even if it’s an outcome I really want to be true? Even if it’s commonsense that you live longer and happier when you are loved, loving, trusted, trusting–it’s all good, but you know, where are the women? Probably just not deemed worth studying.

The Mark Twain quote, now, that I do get.

“There isn’t time, so brief is life,for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account.There is only time for loving,and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”

Oh, give me good fiction, any day.

One thought on “Life Narratives and Happiness

  1. Hi Uma,
    Thanks. This was very interesting. I had heard of this study before, but knew little about it. Perhaps someone will begin another study – one that includes women from the beginning.

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