A New Book From Happiness Expert Raises Questions About The Longevity Of Married Women
Do Married Women Feel Happy In Their Marriage? Maybe Not Says Happiness Expert
As little girls, many of us dream about that wedding, the white picket fence, babies, and living the perfect life. Who knew that same studies have shown that the happiest in the subgroup of women in the population is actually women who are unmarried and childless?
According to happiness expert, Paul Dolan, a professor at the London School of Economics, studies support that women who are unmarried and childless are the happiest. He says that marriage and raising babies which are the traditional markers associated with success do not correlate with happiness. ln his book Happy Ever After he reported on a study from the American Time Use Survey.
They studied levels of misery and levels of pleasure in separated, divorced, windowed married and unmarried individuals. Dolan says that “the study found that the level of happiness reported by those who were married was 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.
Married Women Die Sooner?
Dolan has studied data following the same people over time. He says that men seemed to benefit more from marriage because they typically earned more money in the workplace, took less risks, and enjoyed a longer life. The women has to put up with that, and will die sooner than if she had not remained single. Men showed greater health benefits from being married. The women studied, particularly middle aged married women seemed to be at greater risk for mental conditions and physical conditions.
Dolan said that some single women who were unmarried and childless could feel the stigma of their status and this could lead to unhappiness. “You see a single woman of 40, who has never had children- ‘bless, that’s a shame, isn’t it? Maybe one day you’ll meet the right guy and that’ll change’. Maybe she’ll meet a guy who makes her less happy and healthy and die sooner”.
Dolan’s findings have been widely circulated and his book has received a lot of attention. Other researchers are saying that Dolan is misreading the data from the American Time Use Survey which he based his study on. W. Brad Wilcox, who is a family researcher and a professor with the Institute of Family Studies suggest that Dolan is misinterpreting the survey’s question regarding whether a spouse is absent or present. Dolan is taking that question literally; is the spouse physically in the room when the happiness question is asked.
Incorrect Analysis Of Married Women And Their Happiness? Researchers Say Yes
Wilcox believes that “the question seems to refer instead to whether a spouse was present or absent in the respondent’s life”. Wilcox writes on Twitter, “Dolan appears to have misread ATUS survey questions regarding whether or not the spouse was in the household to refer to whether or not spouse was in the household to refer to whether or not the spouse was present for the interview- and thereby drew incorrect conclusions about marrieds’ happiness, especially wives’ happiness.”
Gray Kimbrough, an adjunct professor with the American University’s School of Public Affairs, and a researcher agrees with Wilcox that Dolan has incorrectly analyzed the question about the presence or absence of a spouse. Kimbrough says that the question “isn’t measuring a spouse’s presence for the interview, or even for any activities-just presence “in the household”. Both Wilcox and Kimbrough believe that women express unhappiness when their spouse in not present in their life.
Are single unmarried women who do not have children the happiest subgroup of women? Based on Dolan’s interpretation as well as on Wilcox and Kimbrough’s interpretations, the jury is still out.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog. Mr. Mues has also been a dog owner for 55+ years, and just recently, he and his wife are the owners of "Ralph", a rescued mixed Wire Hair and Jack Russell Terrier.