The key to a happy marriage may be having a spouse who’s also your best friend, according to a new study on marital satisfaction released by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Married people tend to be healthier, more social, and happier overall, and researchers have long sought an answer as to why this is the case. Is it because marriage itself leads to increased well-being, or simply because happy people are more likely to get married?
Controlling for pre-marital happiness, the study concluded that marriage does lead to increased well-being — and it does so much more for those who have a close friendship with their spouses. Friendship, the paper found, is a key mechanism which could help explain the causal relationship between marriage and life satisfaction.
The study found that those who consider their spouse or partner to be their best friend get about twice as much life satisfaction from marriage as others.
Additionally, the study found that those with the most difficult lives — or middle-aged people, which is when most experience a dip in personal well-being — can benefit the most from getting married or living with a romantic partner. This is because partners can provide each other with a unique kind of social support and help each other overcome some of life’s biggest challenges.
Finding support in long-term relationships, then, may be the key to achieving lasting happiness. This is not necessarily true, however, for marriages in Latin America, the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the study found that marriage actually leads to a decline in happiness.
Despite the benefits of marriage found in the US, Americans are getting hitched less often than they once did.
As life expectancy rises and women become more financially independent, young people in the US are putting off marriage more than ever before. In 2005, 90%
more single-person households existed than in 1970, according to the US Census Bureau.
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