Unmarried and childless? Congratulations! You might just be among the happier, healthier population, according to a behavioural and happiness expert. That is, if you identify as a woman.
Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, told the Hay Festival on Saturday that women who decided against walking down the aisle are the happiest. They are also more likely to live longer than their married and child-rearing peers.
“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,” he said, according to the Guardian.
“When the spouse is not present: f***ing miserable.”
Dang, that’s some real talk.
Most of us have been raised with the idea that getting married and having children is the somewhat expected path in life, especially for women who are often fed a social narrative about the factors that lead to happiness. However, according to Dolan, it’s women who have the most to lose getting hitched.
“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.”
He draws his evidence from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which compared levels of pleasure and misery in unmarried, married, divorced, separated and widowed individuals.
Dolan’s assertions align with those of expert Elyakim Kislev, a research fellow and assistant professor at Hebrew University in Israel and author of Happy Singlehood: The Rising Acceptance and Celebration of Solo Living.
Kislev previously told HuffPost Canada there are many benefits to being single including not finding yourself in an unhappy marriage because you felt pressured to get married. As well, single folks are among the most educated after co-habitants when compared to married people and divorced people.
“There is a huge misconception that being alone and lonely are the same,” he said.
And expert Bella dePaulo said at the 2016 American Psychological Association’s 124th annual conference that single people may have more robust social lives and experience greater psychological growth than some married people, according to a 2016 article in the Guardian.
The researcher presented data showing that single people are more connected with family and friends, whereas married couples tended to spend the most time with each other, the Guardian reported.
She also found that highly self-sufficient single people were less likely to experience negative emotions. However stress and difficulty were actually tied to self-sufficient married people.
So in spite of all of these findings, why might single folks find themselves unhappy? Because of that age-old narrative that marriage and children were signs of success, said Dolan.
“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."
Well, there you go. Dolan does not mess around with words.