Research shows if you want happiness, get married

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez |

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Christian Examiner) -- Whether or not you have a committed significant other this Valentine's holiday, the National Bureau of Economic Research, has some advice for people looking to find happiness -- get married.

Researchers have long agreed that married people tend to be happier people. The outstanding question is 'why?' Does marriage make people happier, or do happier people get married?

Now a working paper by John Helliwell of the Vancouver School of Economics and Shawn Grover of the Canadian Department of Finance using data from both the British Household Panel Survey and the United Kingdom's Annual Population Survey has answered the question.

This study included controls for "pre-marital well being and happiness" and found that individuals who marry are more satisfied in life than those who stay single.

Moreover, they discovered that those whose lives are most difficult could benefit most from marriage.

"Marriage may be most important when there is that stress in life and when things are going wrong," Grover said.

Some social scientists have argued that happiness levels are innate, so people return to their natural level of well-being after joyful or upsetting events.

But Grover and Helliwell found the benefits of marriage persist--that marital happiness long outlasted the honeymoon period. Those who married even experienced less of the dissatisfaction typically attributed to midlife crisis, "because they have a shared load and shared friendship," Helliwell said.

"What immediately intrigued me about the results was to rethink marriage as a whole," Helliwell added. "Maybe what is really important is friendship, and to never forget that in the push and pull of daily life."

According to the Pew Research Center, a quarter of today's young adults will have never married by 2030, which would be the highest share in modern history.