We may have suspected it, but now science supports it: unmarried and childless women are the happiest subgroup in the population. And they are more likely to live longer than their married and educating peers, according to a leading expert in happiness.
Paul Dolan, professor of behavioral sciences at the London School of Economics, said on Saturday during the Hay festival that the latest data showed that traditional markers used to measure success did not correlate with happiness, especially marriage and parenting of children.
“Married people are happier than other subgroups of the population, but only when their partner is in the room when they are asked how happy they are. When the husband is not present: damn miserable,” he said.
“We have good longitudinal data over time that follow the same people, but I am going to massively approve of that science and simply say: if you are a man, you should probably get married; if you are a woman, don’t do that “
Men benefited from the marriage because they “calmed down,” he said. “You take fewer risks, you earn more money at work and you live a little longer. On the other hand, she has to tolerate it and she dies sooner than when she never married. The healthiest and happiest subgroup of the population are women who never are married or have children, “he said.
Dolan’s latest book, Happy Ever After, cites evidence from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), comparing levels of pleasure and misery with unmarried, married, divorced, divorced and widowed individuals. The study found that happiness levels reported by people who were married were higher than unmarried people, but only when their spouse was in the room. Unmarried people reported lower levels of misery than married people who were asked when their spouse was not present.
Other studies have measured a number of financial and health benefits for being married on average for men and women, which, according to Dolan, can be attributed to higher incomes and emotional support, allowing married people to take risks and seek medical help.
Dolan said, however, that men showed more health benefits by breaking the knot because they took fewer risks. The health of women was usually not affected by marriage, with married middle-aged women even at greater risk of physical and mental conditions than their only counterparts.
Despite the benefits of a single, childless lifestyle for women, Dolan said the existing story that marriage and children were signs of success meant that the stigma could cause some single women to feel unhappy.
“You see a single woman of 40, who has never had children -” Bless, that’s a shame, isn’t it? You might meet the right person one day and that will change. “No, maybe she meets the wrong person and that will change. Maybe she meets a man who makes her less happy and healthy and dies sooner.”