Married people are happier, report suggests

07 June 2019

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PEOPLE who are married or in a civil partnership are more likely to be satisfied with their life than single people, a new report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggests.

The ONS report Personal and Economic Well-being: What matters most to our life satisfaction? uses 145,000 responses from the Annual Population Survey (APS) and 5000 responses from the Effects of Taxes and Benefits (ETB) data to understand the relationship between personal well-being and economic or social factors, including marital status.

The people who took part in the survey rated from zero to ten how they felt on four scores of happiness. People who were married or in a civil partnership rated their life satisfaction 9.9 per cent higher than people who were widowed, and 8.8 per cent higher than people who were separated from a partner.

“Marital status is a significant contributor to the odds of reporting high life satisfaction,” the report says. “People who are separated from their partner or widowed are more likely to report lower life satisfaction, compared with people who are single.”

The project director at the Marriage Foundation, Michaela Hyde, said on Tuesday that the findings “should come as no surprise, since there are already countless studies which show that married people are more likely to be physically healthier and have a lower chance of suffering mental ill-health — both of these factors impacting on happiness and satisfaction in life.

“It is reasonable to argue, too, that, since the lifetime risk of divorce is now at its lowest since the 1960s, marriage is working for millions of couples.”

Recent research from the Marriage Foundation suggests that the probability of divorce for couples marrying has dropped to 35 per cent from 44 per cent “at its peak” in the 1980s, Ms Hyde said. “Since there is less social pressure to marry, we know that those who choose marriage are far more serious about commitment than their parents were, and this intentionality from the start is key in lasting relationships and the satisfaction experienced by these couples.”

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A study commissioned by the Church of England’s Life Events team last year stated that almost three quarters (72 per cent) of 1000 unmarried 18- to 35-year-olds intended to get married in the future, including ten per cent who were already engaged.

The ONS satisfaction report also considers age, employment, and health. Younger people reported higher life satisfaction than people in middle age or the elderly. People at retirement age reported the highest levels of life satisfaction, however.

People who were unemployed reported lower life-satisfaction ratings than people who were employed. People who could not work owing to sickness or disability reported only slightly higher life satisfaction ratings than unemployed people.

People living in social housing reported worse employment situations and poorer health: 42 per cent of people living in social housing were unemployed. A person who reported very good health was three times more likely to report higher life satisfaction than someone who reported fair health; the latter was almost six times more likely to report higher life satisfaction than someone in bad health.

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