For many unmarried women over the age of 25, Thanksgiving dinner with the family is the stuff of nightmares. From aggressive aunts and mothers who seem to believe that a woman’s marital status is the most important thing in her life, to comments about ticking clock and withered ovaries, the pressure just doesn’t end [1].

The disease called patriarchy

Somehow, while growing up, many young women have been conditioned by the patriarchy to believe that there’s only one way to be truly happy: find a man, get married and have children. Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore and we have the science to back it up.

No marriage, no children, no problem

Speaking at the Hay Festival in Wales on Saturday(May 25), Paul Dolan, an expert in happiness and a professor of behavioral studies stated that childless and unmarried women are the happiest and healthiest population subgroup.

“Married people are happier than other population subgroups, but only when their spouse is in the room when they’re asked how happy they are. When the spouse is not present: fucking miserable,”  he explained.

The professor’s latest book, “Happy Ever After”, cites evidence from the American Time Use Survey(ATUS), which compared levels of misery and pressure in married, divorced, unmarried, separated and widowed individuals. The studies found that married women were happier, but only when their spouse was in the room. Unmarried women, on the other hand, reported lower levels of misery than married individuals who were asked when their spouse was not present.[2].

Should more men get married?

Dolan adds that men benefit more from marriage than women do as it helps them calm down and take lesser risks [3].

Men benefited from marriage because they “calmed down”, he said. “You take fewer 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 is never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children,” he said.

Social stigma

Despite the benefits of a single, childless lifestyle for women, many still feel unhappy owing to the existing narrative that marriage and children are a sign of success [4].

“You see a single woman of 40, who have never had children – ‘Bless, that’s a shame, isn’t it? Maybe one day you’ll meet the right guy and that’ll change.’ No, maybe she’ll meet the wrong guy and that’ll change. Maybe she’ll meet a guy who makes her less happy and healthy, and dies sooner.” Dolan said

While it is up to the woman to decide whether to have a family or not, it is reassuring to know that you can be happy- even happier- without conforming to society’s dictates.

More about Paul Dolan

Paul Dolan is a professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics and Political Science. A director of Executive MSc Behavioural Science, Paul has over 15,000 citations having worked with Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman among others. Paul is also the author of the best-selling book ‘Happiness by Design’[5].

References:

  1. “Real Women Talk About Family Pressures to Get Married”, Brides. July, 2017.
  2. “Women are happier without children or a spouse, says, happiness expert.”, The Guardian. May, 2019.
  3. Women shouldn’t bother getting married because they are happiest without children or a husband“, Daily Mail. May, 2019.
  4. “9 Ways Being Single Can Improve Your Life”, Time. September, 2018.
  5. Paul Dolan, LinkedIn
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