According to a study, being married has a lifelong effect on how content people are.
The authors, Shawn Grover and John Helliwell of the Vancouver School of Economics in Canada published a study in Springer’s Journal of Happiness Studies. They investigated people’s levels of well-being based on their marital status.
Using data from two UK surveys, Grover and Helliwell showed that an even greater sense of well-being was reported by people who think of their spouse as their best friend.
This was no small study either. Data about the interaction between marriage and friendship was gathered from the long-term British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which was collected from around 30,000 people between 1991 and 2009, and the United Kingdom’s Annual Population 2011 to 2013 Survey, which involved more than 328,000 people.
Married people were found to be more satisfied with life than singles. Those living as a couple, but not married, were much like the married. This wasn’t only true in the so-called honeymoon phase of marriage but persisted into old age.
“Even after years the married are still more satisfied,” says Helliwell. “This suggests a causal effect at all stages of the marriage, from pre-nuptial bliss to marriages of long-duration.”
It seems that marriage is good for those couples going through middle age as well. The boost that being married gave to a person was especially noteworthy during middle age, a period in life that is often associated with quite a drastic dip in well-being. Unmarried people were found to experience a much deeper dip in their satisfaction with life.
“Marriage may help ease the causes of a mid-life dip in life satisfaction and the benefits of marriage are unlikely to be short-lived,” says Helliwell.
It pays to be best friends with your partner
Grover and Helliwell also found that people who are best friends with their partners gain the largest well-being benefit from marriage and living together.
“The well-being benefits of marriage are much greater for those who also regard their spouse as their best friend,” explains Helliwell. “These benefits are on average about twice as large for people whose spouse is also their best friend.”
According to the researchers, the happiness that is associated with marriage seems to flow largely through social channels. Therefore friendship could help explain why the benefits of marriage do not change as time goes on, and why one’s partner can often be referred to as a “super-friend.”
Partners provide unique social support for the challenges in life. Additionally, friendship can help explain why people who are unmarried but living as a couple enjoy most of the well-being benefits of marriage, especially if their partner is also their best friend.
Long-term relationships are good for your health
The results of this study are not especially surprising because we have had other studies in the past indicate that marriage and long-term coupling do tend to be good for your health.
However, if you’re in a destructive relationship or one that is causing you constant misery, you can experience the reverse – poor health, unhappiness, lack of productivity, and other emotional and physical problems.
The passing of the same-sex marriage law in Australia, is also another reason why marriage between gay or straight couples is good for individuals, couples, and our community.
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Springer. (2017, December 19). Couple up for long-term happiness: Analysis of long-term data from the British Household Panel Survey shows married people have a higher level well-being. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171219110035.htm
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available for Kindle on Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.