Married people are more likely to be happier in the long run when compared to their single counterparts, according to U.S. scientists from Michigan State University.
The new findings, published online in the Journal of Research in Personality, suggest that although matrimony is not a guarantee for a blissful life and does not make people happier than they used to be when they were single, it may provide a protection against normal declines in happiness later in life.
Researchers Stevie C.Y. Yap, PhD candidate, Ivana Anusic and Richard Lucas from MSU's Department of Psychology, analyzed the data of thousands of individuals who took part in a long-term, national British Household Panel Survey, in order to find out whether personality helps people adapt to important events in life, such as marriage, childbirth, unemployment and widowhood. Among the big five personality traits researchers named openness, extraversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism and agreeableness. The investigators wanted also to determine if personality could affect positive or negative changes in life satisfaction following major life events.
According to the team, it was a big surprise for them when they found that there was no consistent effect in the role personality traits had in reacting or adapting to important events. For example, personality traits such as conscientiousness or neuroticism did not help people cope with losing a job or giving birth to a child. And while it may make sense that a person who is more conscientious or agreeable would handle widowhood or unemployment better than someone who is neurotic, the experts could not find consistent associations among the thousands of study participants.
When it came to marriage, while there was a natural increase in happy feelings after some major life event, this happiness did not last long and decreased over some period of time. Researchers analyzed the data of nearly 1,400 participants who have never been married at the beginning of the study but tied the knot sometime in the process of the study and stayed married for the whole length of the study. They also examined the data of a control group, which consisted of people who never married.
The results revealed that for those participants who got married, happiness increased for some time but dropped over time to baseline levels. According to the authors, life satisfaction and feelings of happiness were still higher among the participants who were married when compared to those in the control group. Matrimony helped compensate any of the normal declines in happiness or life satisfaction and stabilized the overall level of happiness in those people who were married. On the other hand, if those individuals who were married had never tied the knot, their level of life satisfaction would drop even more because of the normal declines in life satisfaction that are quite common among married and single people, researchers wrote.
The conclusion of the new findings is that while marriage may not make you a happier person, it could help create a balance and stability in life which alleviates any declines in life satisfaction. New cures may be invented or discovered but understanding the institute of marriage is probably something that is beyond the reach of any expert or a researcher.