In her blog recently, Kimberly Weisul noted a study that found that Europeans are happier when they work less and have more leisure, but Americans aren’t. There are many reasons Americans may be happier working more — perhaps the returns are better here, or we associate more hours with success. Or we’re less enamored with leisure time. People spend the biggest chunk of their leisure hours parked in front of the TV, which is usually associated with less happiness.
I’m always fascinated by studies looking at people’s attitudes toward work. So much depends on how you ask the question. Most of us say we are not in our dream jobs. But that doesn’t mean we dislike work itself. The majority of us also claim we’d keep working if we won the lottery (though perhaps not in our current jobs). Most of us are pretty satisfied with our lives, and the working component is a fairly large part of that. On the other hand, many people express a desire to change jobs at any given point.
So who knows what to think? I guess a larger question is why do people (like me) always seek a magic statistic that sums up how millions of people feel about a varied concept? I imagine some jobs are awesome, and some people are just going for a paycheck. Some people prefer work to other things (like watching TV) and others are vice versa. The trouble is when we try to draw conclusions about overall life based on one particular study — because it probably won’t tell the whole picture.