Marriage is one of the most important institutions affecting people’s life and well-being. Marital institutions regulate sexual relations and encourage commitment between spouses. Consequently, it may bring many benefits to the couple.
The effects of marriage on spouses’ well-being
It was discovered that married people report a life satisfaction that was equivalent to having 2.5 times the mean household income. Being married is about three-tenth as good for life satisfaction as having a job. Cohabitating partners has also shared a similar satisfaction with an effect two-thirds of the effect of marriage.
These benefits have been studied in psychology, sociology and epidemiology. Researchers in these fields have documented that, compared to single people, married people have better physical and psychological health (e.g. less substance abuse and less depression) and that they live longer.
Although studies also showed that married people earning higher incomes than single people, it might solely be to the fact that men with a higher earnings potential being more likely to find a partner and get married.
How does marriage contribute to well-being?
First, marriage provides additional sources of self-esteem, for instance by providing an escape from stress in other parts of one’s life, in particular, one’s job. It is advantageous for one’s personal identity to have more than one leg to stand on. Second, married people have a better chance of benefiting from a lasting and supportive intimate relationship, and suffer less from loneliness.
But the difference in happiness between married people and people who were never married has fallen in recent years. The “happiness gap” has decreased both because those who have never married have experienced increasing happiness, and those married have experienced decreasing happiness.
The big question
However, does marriage create happiness or does happiness promote marriage? In other words, does marriage itself make people happy, or do happy people get married?
It seems reasonable that grumpy, dissatisfied people find it more difficult to find a partner than one that is compassionate and loving. A study done in Switzerland may have the answer to this question. Truth enough, it was discovered that it may be the case in a certain age group.
Several concepts may explain this pattern. Some psychologists put forward an event explanation that marital transitions cause short-term changes in subjective well-being. Others take it as evidence for adaptation. Adaptation in the marriage context means that people get used to the pleasant (and unpleasant) stimuli they get from living with a partner in a close relationship, and after some time experience more or less their baseline level of subjective well-being.
In fact, in another study except for that initial short-lived honeymoon effect for life satisfaction, getting married did not result in getting happier or more satisfied. For life satisfaction and relationship satisfaction, the trajectories over time may even headed in the less satisfied direction.
So, whether or not you’re getting married is not going to be the main determining factor of your happiness. It actually begins from yourself.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: July 24, 2018 | Last Modified: July 24, 2018
Stutzer, Alois, and Bruno S. Frey. ‘Does Marriage Make People Happy, or Do Happy People Get Married?’ SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, 1 October 2005. https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=375960.