June 3, 2019
We may have suspected it already, but now the science backs it up: Unmarried and childless women are the happiest subgroup in the population, based on the latest evidence. And they are more likely to live longer than their married and child-rearing peers, according to a leading “happiness expert.”
But that’s only true for women; men benefit from a successful marriage and family.
Speaking at the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts in Hay-on Wye in Wales on Saturday, May 25, Paul Dolan, a professor of Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics, said that the latest evidence shows that traditional measures of social success—in particular, marriage and child-raising—do not correlate with happiness, The Guardian reports.
“We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: If you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother.”
Men benefited from marriage because they “calmed down”, he said. “You take [fewer] risks, you earn more money at work, and you live a little longer. She, on the other hand, has to put up with that, and dies sooner than if she never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children,” he said.
Dolan’s latest book, Happy Ever After, cites evidence from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compared levels of pleasure and misery in unmarried, married, divorced, separated, and widowed individuals.
Despite the benefits of a single, childless lifestyle for women, Dolan said that the existing narrative that marriage and children were signs of success meant that the stigma could lead 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? Maybe one day you’ll meet the right guy and that’ll change.’ No, maybe she’ll meet the wrong guy and that’ll change. Maybe she’ll meet a guy who makes her less happy and healthy, and die sooner.”
Research contact: @guardian