Marriage is a polarizing topic. For some people, it's a deeply comforting idea, to find the perfect person to share your life with and hopefully never have to date again. For others, it's deeply concerning, to have to spend the rest of your life with just one person, to be a part of a permanent partnership instead of just fending for one's self.
Between high divorce rates and how increasingly common it's become for people to postpone or forgo marriage entirely, it seems like people don't need marriage to be happy.
However, studies have proved quite the opposite, actually. According to a new economics paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, being married makes people happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who remain single — particularly during the most stressful times.
There's usually a dip in happiness right smack in the middle of youth and old-age — commonly referred to as the mid-life crisis. The way to make it more like a little hiccup rather than a full-blown crisis, researchers say, is to get married.
For their paper, Canadian economists Shawn Grover and John Helliwell looked at data from three major surveys — the United Kingdom's Annual Population Survey, the British Household Panel Survey, and the Gallup World Poll — that all asked respondents to estimate their life satisfaction by various means and report other information, such as relationship and socioeconomic status, over different periods of time.
They had four major findings: People are more satisfied when they're married, even when taking into account pre-marital satisfaction; contrary to other studies that highlight a "honeymoon phase," these benefits don't fizzle out with time; marriage gets people through the most depressing years of their lives; and all of these benefits are amplified if you consider your spouse your best friend.
"What immediately intrigued me about the results was to rethink marriage as a whole," co-author John F. Helliwell told The New York Times. "Maybe what is really important is friendship, and to never forget that in the push and pull of daily life."
In other words, happiness has less to do with your social status or financial stability, and more to do with sharing wedding bands with your partner in crime.
While this may sound discouraging to those who don't see a place for marriage in their future, there's definitely something positive to take from these findings. There is a depressing notion in happiness research that we're born with certain capacities for happiness, that major life events have little to no effect on how satisfied we are with our lives.
So it should be comforting to know that we do have control over how happy we'll be in the future — whether that's through your marriage, family, friendships, or career, that's up to you.