A happier life after getting married may not just be in fairy tales. It’s in the data, too.
Adults who are married report being far happier than those in any other relationship status, according to a Gallup poll published Friday.
“Any way you analyse those data, we see a fairly large and notable advantage to being married in terms of how people evaluate their lives,” said poll author Jonathan Rothwell, principal economist at Gallup.
From 2009 to 2023, more than 2.5 million adults in the United States were asked how they would rate their current life, with zero being the worst possible rating and 10 being the highest. Then the researchers asked respondents what they anticipated their happiness level would be in five years.
To be considered thriving, a person had to rank their current life as a seven or higher and their anticipated future as an eight or higher, according to the survey.
Over the survey period, married people consistently reported their happiness levels higher than their unmarried counterparts, ranging from 12% to 24% higher depending on the year, according to the data.
The gap was there even when researchers adjusted for factors such as age, race, ethnicity, gender, and education, the survey said.
Education is a strong predictor of happiness, but the data showed that married adults who did not attend high school evaluated their lives more favourably than unmarried adults with a graduate degree.
“Things like race and age and gender and education matter. But marriage seems to matter more than those things when it comes to something like this measure of living your best life,” said Bradford Wilcox, professor of sociology and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. Wilcox reviewed and edited the Gallup Poll research.
“We’re social animals. And as Aristotle said, we are hardwired to connect,” he added.
A difference in how we are picking partners
Maybe the happiness tied to marriage has something to do with what people expect from it, said Ian Kerner, a licenced marriage and family therapist and CNN relationships contributor.
“In my practice over the last decade, I’ve noticed a gradual shift from the ‘romantic marriage’ to the ‘companionate marriage,’ meaning that people are increasingly choosing spouses at the outset who are more like best friends than passion partners,” Kerner said via email.