We’ve already talked about the stigma of Filipina women needing to ‘find a husband and settle down’ to be truly fulfilled — and categorically shut that line of thought down, thank you very much. But beyond our personal beliefs that this is an old-fashioned notion is also the scientific rejection of it. Apparently, evidence coming from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) shows that women end up with happier, more fulfilled lives when unmarried and independent.
Paul Dolan, a behavioral scientist and professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics, presented this conclusion to the Hay Festival: “unmarried and childless women are the happiest subgroup in the population.” More than that, they’re also healthier and are likely to live longer.
There is a universally accepted truth that married people are happier than anyone else. For a long time, this was backed up by data validating that belief. However, different practices of interviewing show that this belief may be skewed. Dolan explains:
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: f*cking miserable.
Dolan’s book from which this presentation is based, Happy Ever After, uses data from unmarried, married, divorced, separated and widowed individuals. His method was to compare the levels of pleasure and misery amongst these groups. Ultimately, unmarried individuals claimed a lower level of misery as compared to married individuals.
Interestingly, these higher levels of misery were mostly attributed to married women. Dolan clarifies that this is because it is men who mostly feel the benefits of the marriage. They “take less risks, earn more money at work, and live a little longer.” Comparatively, women who have to deal with the stress of managing these men are statistically going to die earlier.
Still, it is unmarried women without children who are the healthiest and happiest subpopulation of the entire group. Married women in their middle-ages are even at a significantly higher risk of physical and mental conditions compared to their unmarried equivalents:
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.
Dolan jokes that while they do have the “longitudinal data following the same people over time” to give proof to this, the conclusion is simple: “if you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother.”
Do you agree with this? Tell us why or why not in the comments!