Happiness In Marriage: Are Married People HAPPIER? [2022 Data]

Happiness in marriage entails communication, attention, and consistency between partners. In this article, you’ll learn how marriage affects happiness, how many married couples are TRULY happy, and more.

We’ve all witnessed at least one marriage, whether it was a happy one or a not-so-happy one.

In general, though, many couples do seem very happy together. Many people say that their wedding day was the happiest day of their lives. 

So what does the data say? Does getting married actually make you happy?

To put it simply – yes. 

Take a look at these highlights from our marital happiness data:

  • Sharing friends and social circles with your spouse increases marital satisfaction.
  • Husbands who view all genders and groups equally are significantly happier with their marriages than those with more traditional perspectives.
  • Staying in an unhappy or moderately unsatisfying marriage is worse for an individual’s psychological health than being unmarried.
  • Frequent sex in a relationship will increase happiness but is less likely to increase happiness outside of a relationship. 
  • In heterosexual marriages, American wives are more satisfied with their marriage the more often they have dinner with their husbands.
  • Equal division of household labor increases the well-being of spouses, especially for women with young families. 
  • 43% of married Americans report being “very happy,” while only 24% of single Americans say the same.
  • Married Americans are overall less likely to report physical disability, chronic illness, neurosis, depression, or isolation.

Are Married People Happier?

Generally speaking, married people are happier than unmarried people when they’re sexually satisfied. This data point explains how and why this is the case:

  • Multiple studies suggest that marriage, in conjunction with sexual activity, makes people healthier. Sex increases psychological well-being, and married people typically have more sex. (Research Gate, 2005)1

How Many Marriages Are Genuinely Happy?

Marriage might increase happiness for some people, but not every match was made in heaven. 

That being said, a majority of married people are still more likely to report being happier than singles. Take a look at the research on marital happiness:

  • 92.28% of married Americans claim to be at least “pretty happy” with their marriage. (Springer Science+Business Media, 2014)2
    • 7.716% say they are “not too happy.”
    • 52% say they are “pretty happy.”
    • 40.28% say they are “very happy.”
  • Those who have remarried one or more times are 53% less likely to report high levels of happiness than people in their first marriage. (Journal of Family Issues, 2006)3
  • 96.27% of respondents said they were “pretty happy” or “very happy” with their marriage in a 2021 GSS survey. (General Social Survey, 2021)4
    • 60.98% said they were “very happy.”
    • 35.30% said they were “pretty happy.”
    • 3.73% said they were “not happy.”
  • One study found that only 30.1% of Americans are both married and “very happy” with their marriage. (Journal of Happiness Studies, 2018)5
  • In the U.K., 91% of married people report being “very happy” or “somewhat happy” with their marital status. (Statista, 2019)6
    • 63% said they were “very happy.”
    • 28% said they were “somewhat happy.”
    • 6% said they were “somewhat unhappy.”
    • 3% said they were “very unhappy.”

How Do Married People Compare to Other Demographics?

Are married people the only ones reporting higher levels of happiness, or is this a trend across the general population?

Believe it or not, singles are nearly half as likely as married folks to rate their happiness at the highest level. 

Here are the numbers on happiness in married couples compared to others:

  • 43% of married Americans report being “very happy,” while only 24% of unmarried ones report being “very happy.” This trend has been consistent in both men and women across several years and surveys. (Pew Research, 2006)7
  • In the U.S., the U.K., and Germany, married people are more likely to report being “very happy” and less likely to report being “least happy.” (Springer Science+Business Media, 2014)2
  • Of unmarried Americans, 82.33% say they are at least “pretty happy” with their life. (Springer Science+Business Media, 2014)2
    • 17.67% say they are “not too happy.”
    • 60.76% say they are “pretty happy.”
    • 21.57% say they are “very happy.”
  • Individuals who remain unmarried have better psychological health than those in unhappy or even moderately unsatisfying marriages. (Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2003)8
  • Married people are more likely to be very happy than unmarried people, whether they have children or not. The least likely group to report that they are “very happy” with their lives are single parents of minors. (Pew Research, 2006)7
    • Married people:
      • With kids under 18 – 44% are “very happy.”
      • With kids over 18 only – 41% are “very happy.”
      • With no kids – 43% are “very happy”
    • Unmarried people:
      • With kids under 18 – 19% are “very happy.”
      • With kids over 18 only – 41% are “very happy.”
      • With no kids – 25% are “very happy”

Does a Happy Marriage Increase Overall Health?

Happiness is one thing, but research shows that marriage can also positively impact a person’s health. 

Here’s a look at some of the statistics on how a good marriage impacts health:

  • Being happy in marriage correlates with better physical and psychological health. (Journal of Marriage and Family, 1971)9
  • Married Americans are overall less likely to report physical disability, chronic illness, neurosis, depression, or isolation. (Journal of Marriage and Family, 1971)9
  • People who remarry into a happy marriage are less likely to report health problems. (Journal of Marriage and Family, 1971)9
  • People in unhappy marriages have the same or worse chance of being at lower health levels (fair or poor) than unmarried, divorced, or widowed people. (Journal of Happiness Studies, 2018)5
  • Married adults live longer and are typically in better health than unmarried adults. (Journal of Happiness Studies, 2018)5

What Causes Individual Happiness in Marriage?

Ok, so marriage can and likely will increase your individual happiness, at least for a time. But why? 

Here are some theories on why marriage makes people happier:

  • Being accepted, appreciated, and needed by another person can increase marital happiness. (Fox News, 2015)10
  • For men and women, marriage is most satisfying when they are young, see the relationship as beneficial to themselves, and share friends with their partner. (Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1993)11

How to Keep a Marriage Happy

While many married couples are happy, they go through rough patches just like anyone else. Getting through those rough patches and maintaining satisfaction with your partners boil down to three main things:

Sex, communication, and equality. 

Here are some data points explaining what keeps a marriage happy:

  • Frequent sex will increase relationship satisfaction up to once per week – after that, there is no significant benefit. (Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2015)12
  • Egalitarian husbands (those who view all genders and other groups as equals) are significantly happier in their marriages than those with traditional views. (Journal of Family Issues, 2006)3
  • A healthy sex life can somewhat compensate for poor communication. Marriages with poor communication but high sexual satisfaction will experience greater marital satisfaction than if their sex lives were subpar. (Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 2007)13
  • Marital stability depends on marital satisfaction, which depends on communication. Self-restraint, courage, and friendship also keep a marriage stable. (American Behavioral Scientist, 1998)14
  • In heterosexual marriages, American wives are more satisfied with their marriage the more often they have dinner with their husbands. (Journal of Social and Personal Relationship, 1993)11

What Affects Marital Happiness?

Several factors can make a spouse more or less happy with their marriage, and they can be gender-specific. 

As women gain more agency and labor is divided more equally, happiness in a marriage increases. Here’s the data on what helps and hurts marital happiness:

  • A married woman’s well-being and marital happiness increase as her income increases. (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2004)15
  • Children decrease marital interaction, financial satisfaction, and labor equality, as well as increase traditional marriage structure. All of these factors lower marital happiness. (Journal of Family Issues, 1986)16
  • Spouses with nontraditional attitudes toward marriage are less likely to be satisfied with their marriage than spouses with more traditional views. (Journal of Family Issues, 1993)17
  • Neuroticism in couples causes lower marital and sexual satisfaction for both spouses. (Journal of Family Psychology, 2008)18
  • Division of labor (equal or unequal) affects a spouse’s well-being, especially among women with young families. (The Journal of Socio-Economics, 2004)19

Conclusion

While married couples might experience a greater degree of happiness – and sometimes sexual satisfaction – than their single counterparts, it’s important to remember that this benefit requires persistent maintenance and attention from both partners. 

Being in an unhappy marriage can leave a person worse off than their single counterparts. Children will inevitably complicate a marriage and make it more difficult. And, of course, life will throw all kinds of curveballs that can hurt a relationship. 

However, there are several ways to stay close and satisfied with your partner. Simple things like having dinner together can counteract the negative effects of marital dissatisfaction. Having sex more often and trying new things will also improve the quality of a marriage. 

Lastly, communication and equality are key at every level of a relationship.

Footnotes

  1. Research Gate, 2005. A research paper on the physical and psychological health benefits of lasting personal relationships such as marriage, authored by Chris M. Wilson and Andrew J. Oswald
  2. Springer Science+Business Media, 2014. A research paper on the correlation between a healthy marriage and personal happiness authored by Bruce Chapman and Cahit Guven that cites a 2014 study of 23,045 Americans, 10,300 British, and 18,054 German respondents.
  3. Journal of Family Issues, 2006. An article breaking down marital happiness by gender and age authored by Gayle Kaufman and Hiromi Taniguchi and citing a study of 678 married Americans.
  4. General Social Survey, 2021. A 2021 survey of marital happiness in 1,986 Americans conducted by the General Social Survey.
  5. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2018. A study on marital trends relating to happiness, status, health, and longevity citing a study of 15,385 individuals.
  6. Statista, 2019. A survey conducted in the United Kingdom on happiness in 1,062 individuals based on their marital status.
  7. Pew Research, 2006. A study on general happiness in the American population conducted on 3,014 participants in 2006.
  8. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2003. A comprehensive analysis of the effect that marriage has on the psychological well-being of different groups, citing a study of 1,079 un-attrited American participants.
  9. Journal of Marriage and Family, 1971. A study conducted on 6,928 American adults to determine a correlation between marital happiness and physical and psychological health.
  10. Fox News, 2015. An article on what makes men happy in marriage that utilizes a book by Neil Chethik to analyze psychological and emotional factors.
  11. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1993. An article that uses a study of 922 Americans to compare the causes of satisfying marriages in Japan and the U.S.
  12. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2015. A research article that explores the correlation between sexual frequency and relationship satisfacting using data from three studies totaling 30,645 American participants.
  13. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 2007. A study of 387 married couples aiming to determine the relationships between communication, marital satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction.
  14. American Behavioral Scientist, 1998. A research article that applies social theory to analyze the psychological factors of a healthy marriage.
  15. Journal of Marriage and Family, 2004. A research article that utilizes data from a 2004 study of 1,047 married individuals to determine how a woman’s income affects happiness, well-being, and divorce.
  16. Journal of Family Issues, 1986. A study of 1,535 married individuals that analyzes the impact of children on marital happiness.
  17. Journal of Family Issues, 1993. A 1993 study that utilizes data from 13,007 Americans to analyze the relationship between a family’s perspective on gender roles and marital satisfaction.
  18. Journal of Family Psychology, 2008. A study of 72 American couples in 2008 aimed at examining the harm caused by neuroticism to marriages.
  19. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 2004. A study of 11,000 German households conducted in 2004 to determine the causal relationship between marriage and happiness.
Dainis Graveris

Dainis Graveris

Over last 4 years Dainis have helped millions of people through his advice on this site (200+ guides and 1M+ visits/monthly). His work & advice has appeared on sites like: Healthline, Vice, Cosmopolitan, Men's Health, WomensHealthMag, MindBodyGreen & more. Read More

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