Even though it’s 2017, our society still clings on to the notion that you have to get married by a certain age. If you ask, “But why?” no one can really give you a good answer. It’s not like the old days when you needed a nuclear family so that one person can chop wood while the other one checks on the crops. And the “to have kids” excuse doesn’t really hold water given the looming population crisis. But none of those practical reasons matter, because what people definitively tell you over and over again is that marriage makes you happier and healthier.
But a new study entitled, “The Ambiguous Link between Marriage and Health: A Dynamic Reanalysis of Loss and Gain Effects,” published in the sociology journal Social Forces, challenges that widespread belief. The study reported the findings of the Swiss Household Panel, a survey of more than 11,000 Swiss adults who were asked a set of questions about their health annually for 16 years. What researchers found was that the health of people who were married deteriorated over time as opposed to when they were single, even when taking into account the natural effect of age.
To further illustrate that the deterioration of health was due to marriage and not just getting older, they reported that the health of the participants’ typically cumulatively improved following divorce. Married folks did report higher levels of life satisfaction, thought that too dropped off over time.
But before you call your doctor followed by your divorce lawyer, it’s important to note that people who were divorced reported much lower levels of life satisfaction. So that alone is a reason to stay married, because who would choose being healthy over being happy, right?
Based on this research, it would seem like the path to “happily ever after” isn’t to get married, as we’ve always been told, but to stay single.
As Bella DePaulo, author of “Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After,” wrote in a recent opinion piece on the study:
“Today nearly as many adults are not married as married. Those who do marry are taking longer than ever to get there, and on average Americans spend more years of their adult lives unmarried than married. The new and accumulating research suggests something heartening: People who are single are doing much better than we realized. Marriage is unlikely to bring lasting improvements to their health or well-being and could even result in decrements.”
While all of that is well and good, most single people would probably still want to get married, even if they knew it would literally kill them, just to escape the crippling societal pressure and feeling of failure that still comes with being single. The study did, after all, speculate that while marriage does not lead to better health, “marriage is primarily linked to a more positive evaluation of one’s life,” no doubt because people still treat you like half of a human being if you don’t have a partner.
When that social stigma finally fades away, we can truly live in a happier and healthier world.
Diana Bruk has written extensively about dating, travel, Russia-American relations, and women’s lifestyle for Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Elle, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Guernica, Salon, Vice, The Paris Review, and many more publications. As the former Viral Content Editor at Hearst Digital media and fellow at BuzzFeed, she also has a special understanding of the Internet and vast experience in human interest stories. You can learn more about Diana on her website or Twitter.