What is the key to happiness? New study says it’s marriage

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In an era where individualism and career success are often seen as the hallmarks of happiness, recent research from the University of Chicago delivers a surprising revelation. According to the study, marriage significantly outranks wealth and job satisfaction as the leading predictor of happiness in America, accounting for a whopping 30-percentage-point happiness divide between those who are married and those who are not. The findings present marriage as an unparalleled factor in fostering contentment, challenging modern perceptions of what truly brings joy to life.

The study, led by researcher Sam Peltzman from Chicago Booth, analyzed data from NORC at the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey, spanning nearly 50 years. This broad data set consistently reflected a 70/30 split between respondents who identified as “very happy” or “pretty happy” and those who reported being “not too happy.”

Marriage emerged as a potent factor in shaping this happiness contour. Despite the percentage of married Americans declining to barely 50% today, the data indicated that married individuals were an impressive 30 percentage points happier than their unmarried counterparts.

However, Peltzman cautions against interpreting the correlation as causation. He notes, “Undoubtedly, it goes both ways. Happy people get married, and married people become happy.”

This perspective is echoed by Brad Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia. “Nothing matters more than a good marriage for happiness today,” he told Deseret News. He believes a healthy marriage and a good family environment are more reliable pathways to a meaningful and happy life than even a good job.

This trend of marital status influencing well-being is confirmed by Jonathan Rothwell, principal economist at Gallup. Using a different data set, Rothwell found that marital status was a stronger predictor of American adults’ well-being than education, race, age, and gender.

The report also noted other factors such as income and trust in government playing significant roles in predicting happiness. However, it’s evident that the institution of marriage continues to hold its ground as an unparalleled happiness booster among Americans.

This reality underscores the urgency for policy changes that encourage marriage, particularly in lower-income groups where marriage rates are falling. For Americans seeking happiness, the research seems to point to one important destination: a committed, healthy marriage.

Falling marriage rates, particularly among less educated and lower-income Americans, are one of the main drivers of the national decline in happiness since the turn of the millennium. The implications of this trend are profound, exacerbating the divide between the privileged and unprivileged in society.

This research underscores the pivotal role marriage plays in societal well-being. It challenges us to rethink societal values and policies, particularly those that inadvertently penalize marriage, and to reconsider our emphasis on individualism and career success as markers of happiness.

The data has remained consistent over decades – a good marriage significantly contributes to happiness. It’s a clarion call for society, policymakers, and individuals to reevaluate our collective attitude towards marriage and family life. We need to foster environments that encourage strong marital bonds, especially in less privileged communities.

In the end, this research serves as a compelling reminder that despite societal shifts and changes, some things remain constant. At its core, human happiness thrives on connection, companionship, and commitment – elements that are often encapsulated in a good marriage. In the pursuit of happiness, it appears that love – in its most committed form – indeed, holds the key.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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