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Don’t count on a professional degree to guarantee happiness.

According to recent reports, about 20 percent of all male lawyers report being depressed, which is nearly three times higher than the national average for men. Female lawyers fare a little better, but not by much.

What gives?

Some experts blame it on stress, long hours, and a pessimistic personality. Others attribute it to a profession that interacts with people in typically emotional or high-stakes settings, which can tax even the most psychologically stable individuals

Lawyers, of course, don’t have a lock on professional unhappiness.

Physicians often grapple with the same issues, and as a result many are searching for less demanding environments, such as administration, teaching or consulting.

As a society, we value professional achievement. It drives much of our behavior. But it doesn’t necessarily lead to a happy or satisfying life. Just ask any unhappy lawyer or physician.

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Whether a woman has had children or not isn’t likely to affect her psychological well-being in later life.

That’s the conclusion reached by several researchers in a recent study about childrearing. Details of the study were presented in this article in ScienceDaily.

This study suggests that the outlook for psychological well-being later in life for today’s childless women is quite good.

The researchers looked at data on women between the ages of 51 and 61 from two different national surveys that included common measures for psychological well-being.

According to their analysis, all other things being equal, the childless women were about as satisfied and happy with their lives as the on-time mothers.

Researchers also found another interesting tidbit — the highest level of well-being was among mothers who were most likely to have children still living at home or still in college. The study suggests that delaying motherhood may have some benefits for women—probably related to “being more career focused and having higher social standing.”

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Evidence keeps building that adaptation plays an important role in one’s well-being.

Studies suggest that once a significant event occurs in our lives, whether it’s good or bad, we eventually adapt to the impact of that event and then return to our previous satisfaction levels. That explains, in part, why lottery winners who were studied only reported experiencing slight increases in happiness levels or why spinal cord injury victims were not as unhappy as one would think two months after their accident.

One researcher called this the “hedonic treadmill.” We revert back to our usual levels of happiness in a relatively short period of time after a spike. It’s called “treadmill” because we can never stay at this new level of well-being for very long.

But subsequent research disputed this theory. For example, the return to “normalcy’ took much longer, occurred more slowly or never happened at all for some people, such as widows and caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. That has led researchers to question whether people fall back to their previous “average” level of well-being or do they find a different, new middle ground after their significant incident and they settle into that?

This much is known — adaptation matters. Whether it’s immediate or long-term, how we adapt to life events can have a profound effect on our happiness.

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Another profoundly unhappy young adult or youth has caused unfathomable tragedy and sadness.

An individual or small group, almost always male, unleashes a torrent of violence and death that stretches far beyond the brief, but widespread notoriety that ensues. Left in its wake is the very simple observation — we seem to be at a loss as to how to stop or prevent it.

But there are clues, even if only breadcrumbs.

The Omaha young man was apparently depressed, and he had recently lost two important satisfaction resources — his job and girlfriend. There were also apparently familial conflicts and self-esteem issues. Life had no meaning. In other words, many of the things that help make the rest of us happy or satisfied (even if minimally) were missing — gone. Combine those elements with the desire for notoriety and the access to weapons and we have the perfect recipe for disaster.

Reasonably satisfied or happy young adults are less likely to randomly kill strangers. Perhaps that is where we need to look harder for answers and solutions.

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