Marriage is best for long-term happiness
From an article in the Journal of Happiness Studies
A recent study in the Journal of Happiness Studies analysed people’s responses about life satisfaction in the British Household Panel Survey over 18 years, supplemented by data in the United Kingdom Annual Population Survey. Researchers wanted to see if and what was the size and permanence of the effects of marriage on subjective well-being.
Happiness is U-shaped across the adult life-span, meaning that it normally rises when we’re young adults, drops during middle age when life’s stresses and existential questions loom large, and then rises again as older adults regain their equilibrium. Is there a difference in satisafaction levels for those that are married and those that are single?
As you can see the life satisfaction levels over time are much higher for marrieds, especially in middle age. One potential explanation for this result is that the social support provided by a spouse helps ease the stresses of that time.
While cohabiting couples were happier than single people, they were only three-quarters as happy as marrieds.
In addition, friendship matters. Those whose spouse or partner is also considered their best friend get almost twice as much additional life satisfaction from marriage or cohabitation as do others. When the effects are analysed by gender, the well-being benefit of being married to one’s best friend appears much higher for women than for men, although on average fewer women than men regard their spouse as their best friend.
So, four conclusions:
Those who marry are more satisfied than those who remain single.
The benefits of marriage persist in the long-term, even if the well-being benefits are greatest immediately after marriage.
Marriage seems to be most important in middle age when people of every marital status experience a dip in well-being.
Those who are best friends with their partners have the largest well-being benefits from marriage and cohabitation.