Washington, Dec. 3 (Reuters): Having sex is the high point of most women's days, while commuting is the low point. And most women like being with their kids less than they will admit, according to a study published on Thursday.
While the results may not appear startling, the method used to assess mood represents a new and more accurate way of figuring out how happy people are, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
They propose that their tool could be used to plan social policy. The study also addresses an eternal question asked by men as well as marketing mavens, captured in films such as What Women Want, featuring Helen Hunt and Mel Gibson.
'Current measures of well-being and quality of life need to be significantly improved,' said Richard Suzman of the National Institute on Ageing, which helped fund the study. 'In the future I predict that this approach will become an essential part of national surveys seeking to assess the quality of life.'
For the study, David Schkade of the University of California San Diego and colleagues at Princeton University, University of Michigan and elsewhere studied more than 900 women.
Usually, people are asked about their feelings in general for questionnaires on mood.
The new method, called the Day Reconstruction Method, involves breaking the day into a sequence of episodes and rating each activity or moment as a kind of snapshot.
''Think of your day as a continuous series of scenes or episodes in a film. Give each episode a brief name that will help you remember it (for example, commuting to work, or at lunch with B',' the women were told.
The women rated each activity for positive and negative associations, with six being the strongest and zero the weakest. 'Grocery shopping and cleaning the house were rated lowest among 28 activities,' the researchers wrote.
On average, the 900 women gave 'intimate relations' a positive score of 5.10, compared to 4.59 for socialising. Housework scored 3.73, which was better at least than working at 3.62 and commuting with a lowly score of 3.45.
As for who the women preferred to be with, friends clearly won out with a positive score of 4.36. Children landed in the middle, after relatives and spouses.
The boss scored just 3.52.
'When people are asked how much they enjoy spending time with their kids they think of all the nice things ' reading them a story, going to the zoo,' said University of Michigan psychologist Norbert Schwarz, who worked on the study. 'But they don't take the other times into account, the times when they are trying to do something else and find the kids distracting.'