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Marriage does not always lead to a happier life—fairy tales notwithstanding. And it’s in the data. According to a Gallup Poll released on Friday, adults who are married report being significantly happier than those in any other relationship status.Gallup lead economist Jonathan Rothwell, who wrote the poll, stated, “Any way you analyze those data, we see a fairly large and notable advantage to being married in terms of how people evaluate their life.” More than 2.5 million American individuals were asked to rank their present life on a scale of zero for the worst and ten for the best between 2009 and 2023. Next, the participants were asked to predict their degree of happiness in five years by the researchers. According to the study, a person had to give their current life a score of seven or higher and their expected future a score of eight or higher in order to be classified as thriving.

The data shows that married respondents regularly reported higher levels of satisfaction than single respondents during the survey period, with differences ranging from 12% to 24% depending on the year.

According to the report, the disparity persisted even when researchers took into account variables including age, race, ethnicity, gender, and education.

Although a graduate degree is a strong indicator of happiness, the data revealed that married adults without a high school education had a more positive life evaluation than single adults with one.

Age, gender, color, and education are important factors. However, marriage appears to be more important than those factors when it comes to something akin to this gauge of sort of living your best life, according to Bradford Wilcox, University of Virginia sociology professor and head of the National Marriage Project. Wilcox edited and analyzed the research from the Gallup Poll.

“As social animals, we are. We are hardwired to connect, as Aristotle once stated.

A distinction in our partner-selection process

According to Ian Kerner, a registered marriage and family therapist and contributor to BCE partnerships, perhaps people’s expectations of marriage have an impact on the happiness associated with it.According to Kerner’s email, “I’ve observed a gradual shift in my practice over the last ten years from the ‘romantic marriage’ to the ‘companionate marriage,’ meaning that people are increasingly choosing spouses at the outset who are more like best friends than passion-partners.”

Although this could cause issues with attractiveness, he added, it also indicates that such individuals are selecting partners based on characteristics that are likely to support stability and contentment in the long run.

The idea of commitment essentially refers to the feeling of having a link with someone. At its best, it means having a relationship with someone who can be your reliable, safe haven—someone who will support you through good times and bad,” Boston psychotherapist Dr. Monica O’Neal said.

Is marriage a prerequisite for happiness?

Although there is plenty to be learned from the data, Rothwell noted that it is challenging to determine whether marriage contributes to higher levels of happiness. It’s possible that those who might look for marriage also possess traits that tend to bring to more consistent happiness, according to the survey.According to Rothwell, there is a well-known higher wage premium—at least for men—that comes with being married. “Whether this is because married men are more likely to be successful, charming, intelligent men with traits that would enable them to earn more in the labor market is a topic of much debate in the literature.”

However, he continued, the quality of marriages might differ depending on personal circumstances, societal shifts, and cultural perspectives on marriage.

For instance, the evidence indicates a lower impact on happiness in cultures where marriage is frequently seen as a practical need than in places where people feel more free to select their status and spouse, according to Rothwell.

Furthermore, O’Neal doesn’t think that being in an unhappy marriage will make your life better in general.She stated, “I still think that people in unhappy marriages are probably not as happy as people who are single.”Whether you’re dating or married, O’Neal advised having clear communication about what your commitment to one another means in order to maximize your chances of having a great relationship.

According to Rothwell, “I don’t think social science will ever reach a point where we can say whether or not and with any precision whether marriage causes happiness.”

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