New research on marriage has drawn significant attention, leading to several widely read articles on the matter. Early last month, at UnHerd, in a piece entitled The best predictor of happiness in America? Marriage authors W. Bradford Wilcox and David Bass write:
Americans who are married with children are now leading happier and more prosperous lives, on average, than men and women who are single and childless.
Is that statement surprising? In an age that prizes individualism, workism, and a host of other self-centric isms above marriage and family, it may well be. But the reality is that nothing currently predicts happiness in life better than a good marriage.
The UnHerd authors base their conclusions on a study published in July out of the University of Chicago. Looking at The Socio Political Demography of Happiness, the research concluded, Being married is the most important differentiator with a 30-percentage point happy-unhappy gap over the unmarried.
On the results of the study, researcher Sam Peltzman declared:
Marital status is and has been a very important marker for happiness. The happiness landslide comes entirely from the married. Low happiness characterizes all types of non-married. No subsequent population categorization will yield so large a difference in happiness across so many people.
With countless amounts of anecdotal evidence, and with decades of social science research that shows the same, theres little doubt that marriage is indeed an important predictor or marker for happiness. However, this shouldnt be confused with the idea that marriage is the cause of happiness. In other words, if youre miserably unhappy, or even moderately so, dont simply look to marriage to change this.
The latter conclusion is my own, based on my experiences, knowledge, and observations of the world; however, there is research to support it as well. Additionally, another article on the recent University of Chicago studywhether it means to or notsupports my take on marriage and happiness. Ironically, this article is written by what seems to be a rather liberal authorOlga Khazanat the leftist publication The Atlantic.
Miss Khazan begins her piece by citing the University of Chicago study and concluding:
Married people are much happier than the unmarried, according to these data. Looking at those same 100 people, 40 married people will say theyre happy, and 10 will say theyre not happy. But single people are about evenly split between happy and not happy. It doesnt really matter if you are divorced, are widowed, or have never married: If youre not married, youre less likely to be happy. The only happy people for 50 years have been married people, Peltzman told me.
This puzzles Miss Khazan because, in her own words, [A]fter 13 years of cohabitation, Im currently trying to get married, and its not making me very happy at all. I have news for Miss Khazan and all of those like her: It is quite unlikely that marriage will do anything to increase your happiness.
Miss Khazans scenario is quite telling and is a perfect example to illustrate my conclusion on marriage and happiness. It is not the mere act of marriage that brings, or increases, happiness. Perhaps this was once the case in our culture, when there was a widespread, proper understanding of what is marriage. However, in these times, where we have so perverted the meaning of marriage, sex, and the like, almost certainly many of those who are looking to marriage to increase their happiness will be sadly disappointed.
In other words, its thosewhether they are married or notwith the proper understanding of what is marriage who are most likely to be happy before and after marriage. As Miss Khazan herself admits, marriage doesnt make you happy; rather, happy people get married. She continues:
One 15-year study of more than 24,000 Germans, for instance, found that those who got married and stayed married were happier than the unmarried ones to begin with, and any happiness boost they got from the marriage was short-lived. Most of the research indicates that the happiest couples marry, not that marriage causes happiness, Brienna Perelli- Harris, a demography professor at the University of Southampton, in the United Kingdom, told me over email.
So, who are these happy people? Most likely, theyre Christians, or at least the religious. Again, theres plenty of anecdotal evidence that proves this true. As we live out our daily lives, typically those who have a measure of faith in the One who made us are the most pleasant to encounter and seem most content with the world around them. This is in spite of whatever difficult circumstances in which they might find themselves.
And yes, there is research that shows Christians, or at least those who are religious, to be the happiest among us. In April of this year, Christian Headlines declared Americans Who Believe in God Are the Happiest People in the U.S. They based this conclusion on a Wall Street Journal-NORC survey and report:
A handful of strong beliefs separate those who are very happy from the rest of Americans. An overwhelming majority of very happy people 68 percent say belief in God is very important to them. Thats a significantly higher percentage than among the pretty happy group (47 percent) and the not too happy group (42 percent).
They tend to say belief in God is important, The Wall Street Journal reported of the very happy group. Two-thirds describe themselves as very or moderately religious, compared with less than half of adults overall.
A 2019 Pew Research Center study found regular participation in a religious community [emphasis by Pew] clearly is linked with higher levels of happiness and civic engagement (specifically, voting in elections and joining community groups or other voluntary organizations). 2016 Pew research found similar results, noting that highly religious people were happier than others. The highly religious are overwhelmingly (95 percent) Protestant, Catholic or other Christians.
In 2016, using data from a study by Great Britains Office for National Statistics, The Christian Post reported that, among all faith groups, Christians were the happiest. The article declared:
Statistics from Britain's national happiness index have suggested that Christians are among the happiest people in the nation, while those who dont identify with any particular religion generally scored the lowest life satisfaction numbers.
Christians are among the happiest people in the world, not simply because of who we areand not simply because we are more likely to marry, or because of our view on what is marriagebut because of who God is and because of all that Hes done and will do. Were generally a happy people because of the faith, hope, and love, and all the other good fruit that permeates Christianity. Wont you join us?!