Women are the happiest subgroup in the population when unmarried and childless. Not a sentence typically cited, even a bit taboo to admit, until recently. However, according to scientific research, this is a true statement.
Paul Dolan, a leading expert in happiness and a professor of behavioral sciences at the renowned London School of Economics, made this grand statement at the Hay Festival on Saturday.
In particular, Dolan mentioned that the traditional markers for success were evolving, and this included marriage and children.
Who are the happiest people?
“Married people are happier than other population subgroups, but only when their spouse is in the room when they’re asked how happy they are. When the spouse is not present: fucking miserable,” he said.
Dolan continued, “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.”
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Why should men get married, and not women?
In men's case, they benefit from marriage as they “calmed down”, Dolan said. “You take less 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.
Data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which compares levels of pleasure and misery in unmarried, married, divorced, separated, and widowed individuals, helps to explain this a little further.
The study found that when couples were asked these questions while being in the same room, they largely responded positively to being married and raising children.
Rather unsurprisingly, unmarried individuals reported lower levels of misery than married ones who were asked when their second half was not present.
Other studies, however, have depicted that when married, men as well as women, may benefit more positively financially and for health reasons. Higher incomes and emotional support could be contributing factors, says Dolan.
Returning to why men should tie the knot more so than women; one of the reasons being an improvement in their health once married. By taking fewer risks, they live longer and go for more regular check-ups.
Married middle-aged women, in contrast, appear to suffer higher levels of physical and mental conditions than their singleton counterparts.
Stigma of unmarried and childless women still strong.
Even though there is scientific research as to why women may be happier if single and without children, the stigma attached to the female sex not reproducing or settling down is still high, leading them to believe they are not successful as societal human beings. This, in turn, creates unhappiness in some of these women.
The usual scenario is pity and misunderstanding as to why a woman in her late thirties or in her forties remains single and without children.
According to Dolan's study, however, this should change to success stories of women deciding exactly what they want, and living longer, happier, healthier lives. Alone.