Men should get married to improve their wellbeing but women ‘shouldn’t bother’, according to a leading expert in happiness who says that unmarried, childless women are the happiest people in society.
Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, said yesterday that men benefit from marriage because they ‘calm down’, while the same wasn’t true for women.
‘You take less risks, you earn more money at work and you live a little longer. She, on the other hand, has to put up with that and dies sooner than if she never married,’ he said.
‘The healthiest and happiest population sub-group are women who never married or had children.’
Speaking at the Hay Festival, Prof Dolan added:
‘We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: if you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother.’
Dolan’s latest book, Happy Ever After, cites evidence from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which compared levels of pleasure and misery in unmarried, married, divorced, separated and widowed individuals.
The study found that levels of happiness reported by those who were married were higher than the unmarried, but only when their spouse was in the room.
Unmarried individuals reported lower levels of misery than married individuals who were asked when their spouse was not present.
Other studies have measured some financial and health benefits in being married for both men and women on average.
Dolan said the findings could be attributed to higher incomes and emotional support, allowing married people to take risks and seek medical help.