Once women hit age 60, those who are married and those who have never been married are equally happy, a new research finds.
In a survey of more than 51,000 adults in the United States, married people reported the highest happiness levels, and people who were widowed, divorced or never married reported lower happiness levels.
But the exception was older, never-married women.
Marriage and happiness
The researchers used data gathered over 38 years from the General Social Survey. Survey participants answered the question, "Taken all together, how would you say things are these days — would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy?"
The researchers compared the reported happiness levels of different groups of men and women: married, unmarried, divorced and widowed people. Also, because widowed and divorced people are often older, on average, than married people, the researchers did a separate analysis for people age 60 and older.
Happy as a clam
The researchers were surprised to find that the reported happiness levels of "never-married, older women are, in a lot of years, indistinguishable from [those of] married, older women."
"The never-married, older men are, however, significantly less happy than the married men and generally not distinguishable from the divorced and widowed [men]."
"The overall message is that being formerly married, whether it's [due to] divorce or widowhood, is associated with lower levels of happiness."
The researchers added that it's not clear why married people tend to be happier. It could be that happy people get married or that marriage makes people happy.