The Key to Happiness for Men Revealed in New Study

A man’s happiness is tied to whether he can beat his parents' academic achievements, according to a new study. 

While women were not significantly affected if they failed to better their parents’ educational successes, men who missed the mark suffered comparably to if they had experienced a divorce, researchers at Oxford University found.

The experts at the university's department of social policy and intervention delved into the data of over 50,000 people across 27 European countries and Israel to investigate how academic prowess affects a person’s psychological well-being, The Times reported

The researchers categorized qualifications into high, medium and low levels. Those corresponded to the equivalent of a degree, a high-school diploma, and qualifications attained by high school sophomores respective to each nation. 

Bettering their parents was shown to reduce psychological distress in men, whereas missing the mark had the opposite effect. More specifically, men with a mid-level education whose parents achieved a top level were 75 percent more likely to be distressed than those who equaled their parents.

Men who achieved the lowest level of qualification after their parents achieved the highest fell into the top 10 percent of the most psychologically distressed, similar to those who experienced divorced. In contrast, high-achieving men with bottom-level parents were half as likely to be distressed than those who matched their parents.

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The study will be presented on April 10 at the British Sociological Association's annual conference at Northumbria University in the UK.

“Our results suggest that the role of social origins, net of intergenerational mobility, is much more significant for men than for women,” the authors wrote. “This corroborates some earlier evidence that men’s life chances are more related to their social origins than life chances of women.”

Dr. Alexi Gugushvili, a co-author of the report, said according to The Guardian: “For men, parents’ educational achievement and intergenerational mobility retain an important influence on their psychological health after accounting for individuals’ social class and other explanations of distress, but no effect is observed for women’s distress.

“The reason for this could be that men are more likely than women to attribute success and failure by pointing to their own merits, abilities and effort, rather than factors they have no control over.” 

Peter Kinderman, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool and lead educator on the FutureLearn course Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature commented that experiences from childhood trauma to losing a job can directly affect a person's mental health.

He told Newsweek: "This means that our individual ways of responding to life’s challenges are unique—but understandable. In this way of looking at mental health, it doesn’t make so much sense to think about the aetiology and treatment of ‘disorders’, but is much more scientific (and humane) to think about how our upbringing and experiences in life have shaped how we make sense of ourselves, our goals, our relationships with other people and the outside world.

"From that perspective, the finding that people are distressed if they feel they are falling short of their goals in life (whatever they are) makes perfect sense. But it’s only one of the complicated mechanisms, whereby our psychological mechanisms for appraising and evaluating the world and ourselves can affect our mental health."