The One Tradition That Will Protect You From "Adult Happiness Decline," According To Research

Can marriage keep you happy for longer than being single?

Sad couple Ridofranz | KatarzynaBialasiewicz | Getty Images

Married people just might be happier than their single counterparts, according to a 2012 study published online in the Journal of Research in Personality

The study finds that while getting hitched doesn't automatically make people happier, it does offer some protection against the "normal" happiness decline that happens with adulthood.

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Either way, the study was a bit dark. It sounds like we're all in for an inevitable downturn in happiness as we get older, and while marriage can keep our happiness levels stable in the long run, it won't really improve them. Harsh.

The researchers found that people who got married for the first time and stayed married had increased happiness around the time of their marriage, though in the long run, their levels of life satisfaction returned to close to what they were beforehand. They found no evidence that people who got married were happier before marriage than people who were single.

"Marriage is a protective factor against this gradual decline in well-being that you see in younger adults,” says Stevie Yap, a professor of psychology at Michigan State and the study’s lead author. “So it doesn’t make you any happier than you were prior to marriage, but it seems to protect against the decline of your happiness that would have been if you didn’t get married.”


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As an engaged woman about to dive headfirst into marriage (my wedding is in two months!), I'm a bit uncomfortable with the whole "us" (read: married people) vs. "them" thing to begin with. I feel like I'm about to join the married cult where we all laugh at the poor, single people from our lofty perch while sipping on overflowing cups of Stable Levels of Happiness. Someone slap me if I ever become that.

It's probably just my nerves talking since they usually don't shut up now that my wedding day is fast approaching.

I can't help but take everything personally, from shows like Bridezilla (I hate those annoying, ridiculous women who give brides a bad rap) to marriage studies. When it comes down to it, I'd like to think that a happy person creates a happy life for themselves. So if a happy person wants marriage, they get it. But there is no one recipe for happiness.


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“Basically, life events do matter,” Yap says. “Things like marriage, childhood, widowhood, and unemployment do matter in the short term. But in some cases, these life events don’t have long-lasting implications on psychological adjustment.” “One thing you can take away from the study,” he adds, “is that, on average, marriage seems to be a good thing.”

What do you think — does marriage spell happiness?


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Mona Lisa Macalino is a freelance writer and editor. She has been featured in Men's Fitness, Lost Girls World, Afingo, and more.