Marriage Happiness Statistics – Does Getting Married Make You Happy, and Keep You Happy?

By Bedbible Research Center / February 28, 2023

In this meta-study we take a look at the connection between marriage and happiness. We have collected data from all available peer-reviewed papers. We then aggregated datasets of statistics on the connection between marriage and happiness. The results and findings are available in this article.

Please reach out to researchcenter@bedbible.com to gain access to the full dataset. If you decide to use any of the data or facts uncovered in this article please make sure to reference.

Key Statistics

  • Married people report to be +4-9% happier than unmarried people.
  • Getting married increases happiness by +9% on average in the three years after marriage,
    • +7% from year 4 to 6,
    • and +5% on average in 7+ years after getting married.
  • Getting engaged increases happiness by +7% on average.
  • Married people between 40-55 are on average +7% happier compared to unmarried people.
  • People 85+ years of age who have never been married +4% happier than people who have been married.
  • Americans view happiness and marriage as less connected today, 23% agree that married people are happier (compared to 50% in 1988).
  • Men experience a bigger effect on their happiness (in the short term) compared to women (increases happiness by up to 11% for men, compared to 7% for women).

How much happier married people are

  • People that have married at one point in life on average report to be 4% more happy with their life.
  • People who have married on average report to feel 7.6 on a 10-point scale of happiness.
  • People who have never married on average report to feel 7.3 on a 10-point scale of happiness.
Happiness self-reported scores - happiness statistics

Age groups

We looked into the difference between age groups.

The results showed that only amongst people older than 85 years was it an advantage for the general happiness feeling in life to have never married.

  • People older than 85 are 2% more happy if they have never married compared to people who have married at some point.
  • From 41-55 people who have married are on average 7% happier than people who have never married.
  • The happiest people are over 85 years old and never married – they are as happy as married people younger than 30 year old.
AgeEver MarriedNever Married% difference
<257.957.733%
26-307.817.465%
31-357.587.255%
36-407.417.095%
41-457.326.857%
46-507.186.717%
51-557.216.727%
56-607.387.143%
61-657.637.413%
66-707.767.474%
71-757.727.611%
76-807.757.641%
81-857.617.521%
86+7.627.81-2%
All7.577.324%

The effects of getting married

We anticipated in the dataset that there is an immediate short-term effect of getting married on a persons reported happiness. Although this effect might be even higher had we controlled for people in relationships, what we wanted to look at here is solely the marriage-aspect.

What we found was that there is a short term effect that fades over time (but does not evaporate entirely). The happiness score of 1-10 improved on average by XXX.

We did also look at the 2-year period before a couple got married, and found that this group also had higher happiness reporting on average than the general population. This is too be expected, as this would likely also be the time of engagement.

Happiness effects of marriage
PeriodMarriage effects (1-10 scale)% increase
2 years before+0.72+7%
3 years after marriage+0.89+9%
4-6 years after marriage+0.73+7%
7+ years after marriage+0.51+5%

American views on happiness and marriage over time

We asked respondents a question to extrapolate if people felt that marriage and happiness was connected.

We asked respondents if they agreed with the following statement:

Married people are generally happier than unmarried people.

What we found is that over the years the views of the American public have shifted from 1988 to 2002. And then again from 2002 to 2012.

We found that Americans tend to agree, across time, that marriage and happiness are connected.

happiness and marriage views over time since 1988 to today

The view previously was that marriage and happiness was highly related.

In 1988 almost 50% agrees that married people are happier than unmarried people.

In 2021 almost 23% agreed that married people are happier than unmarried people. In the same year, the highest ever rate of respondents disagreeing with the statement occurred. Almost 20% of respondents disagrees that married people are happier than unmarried people.

Answer19881988 (%)19941994 (%)20022002 (%)20122012 (%)
Inapplicable674.5%154551.6%159457.6%67234.0%
No answer181.2%210.7%10.0%90.5%
Do not Know533.6%391.3%411.5%763.9%
Strongly agree23315.7%1495.0%1916.9%1005.1%
Agree48532.7%49616.6%2729.8%34817.6%
Neither41127.8%43914.7%36713.3%38319.4%
Disagree18412.4%2468.2%1967.1%32716.6%
Strongly disagree302.0%571.9%1033.7%593.0%
N / % Agree71848.5%64521.6%46316.7%44822.7%
N / % Disagree21414.4%30310.1%29910.8%38619.6%
Total N / %1481100%2992100%2765100%1974100%

A case could be made that ‘inapplicable’ respondents should be removed from the dataset to provide a more unbiased representation of actual percentages of the total population in each year. Although this hurts the comparison potential it is done in the below table and graph:

Answer1988 (%)1994 (%)2002 (%)2012 (%)
No answer1.3%1.5%0.1%0.7%
Do not Know3.7%2.7%3.5%5.8%
Strongly agree16.5%10.3%16.3%7.7%
Agree34.3%34.3%23.2%26.7%
Neither29.1%30.3%31.3%29.4%
Disagree13.0%17.0%16.7%25.1%
Strongly disagree2.1%3.9%8.8%4.5%
% Agree50.8%44.6%39.5%34.4%
% Disagree15.1%20.9%25.5%29.6%
N is the same, as in the previous table, so this have been removed for simplicity.
American attitutedes towards happiness and marriage in life
As mentioned: The data has redacted ‘inapplicable’ answers from the dataset, meaning the percentages skew and show a slightly different development. However, most of the former conclusions stay the same.

Gender differences: Which gender is happier in marriage?

In this section we are looking at what gender benefits the most from marriage.

Are men happier married or unmarried? Men are always happier married than unmarried (even longterm). Comparatively to women, men are happier right after marriage (3-6 years) compared to both before and in the long term.

Are women happier married or unmarried? Women are always happier married than unmarried. Comparatively to men, women are happier just before marriage and in the long term (7+ years).

Happiness effects of marriage on men and women, by gender

Are people who marry later happier?

Results from our dataset indicate, that people who marry later in life are generally happier.

Early marriage was computed as a marriage before the age of 30, and a late marriage was computed as a marriage at 30 or after.

The results showed that marrying later in life (after age 30) was a significant predictor of avoiding depressive symptoms at age 43.

Controlling for baseline happiness, depression, self-esteem, and divorces, education, income and other background variables we find that respondents

marriage effects on happiness, depression, and self-esteem statistics

What percent of marriages that are happy

  • 36% of married people report to be “very happy”, compared to just 22% of people who are not married.
  • 11% of married people report to be “not to happy”, compared to just 15% of people who are not married.

Comparing married people with other demographics

Overall the research shows that married people in general report to be happier. This even goes for people who have since divorced.

We also found, that the views of the American public also favors that married people are happier than unmarried people.

Marriage and health

Looking at other health benifits (other than mental health and happiness) we also found some interesting results in the studies covered:

  1. Longer life: Married individuals tend to live longer than unmarried individuals. A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that being married was associated with a lower risk of mortality over a 10-year period, even after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, and socioeconomic status.
  2. Lower risk of heart disease: Married individuals have a lower risk of heart disease than unmarried individuals. A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that being married was associated with a lower risk of heart disease, even after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, and health behaviors.
  3. Lower risk of dying of cancer: Married individuals have a lower risk of certain types of cancer than unmarried individuals. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that married individuals with lung cancer had a higher survival rate than unmarried individuals with lung cancer.
  4. Lower risk of substance abuse: Married persons have lower risk of substance abuse when comparing to unmarried persons. This was found in a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. It found that married persons were less likely to engage in heavy drinking and/or drug use compared to unmarried persons.
  5. Better overall health behaviors: Married individuals tend to engage in better overall health behaviors compared to unmarried people. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that people who were married were more likely to engage in regular exercise and eating a healthy diet when compared to unmarried people.

Marriage and money

The relationship between marriage and money is also a topic of research, and here are some statistics:

  1. Financial stability: Married individuals tend to have greater financial stability when comparing with unmarried individuals. In a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research researchers found that married couples were a lot less likely to experience financial hardship and/or bankruptcy compared to unmarried individuals.
  2. Higher household income: Married couples on average have higher household incomes than unmarried individuals. The U.S. Census Bureau found that in 2019, the median income for married couples was $89,667, compared to $43,614 for households headed by a single person. What the data also showed was, that it also translated into higher individual incomes (when dividing the household income by the income earners).
  3. Better savings habits: Married couples on average have better savings habits and larger savings compared to unmarried individuals. One example of a study showing this relationship is a survey conducted by Bank of America that showed that 71% of married couples reported having a savings account, compared to just 49% of unmarried individuals.
  4. Greater financial stress: Despite the advantages of financial stability and higher income, married couples may also experience greater financial stress. A survey conducted by Ramsey Solutions found that money was the number one source of stress in marriage for 41% of respondents.
  5. Unequal financial power: In some marriages, one partner may have more financial power or control than the other. A study conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education found that 31% of adults who combined finances with a partner reported that they had been deceptive about money.

Reasons for happiness in a marriage

  1. Companionship: Having a partner to share your life with can bring a sense of companionship and emotional support that can contribute to overall happiness.
  2. Emotional stability: Marriage can provide a sense of emotional stability and security that can reduce stress and anxiety.
  3. Shared responsibilities: Sharing responsibilities and tasks with a partner can lead to a more balanced and efficient lifestyle, allowing for more time and energy to focus on personal happiness.
  4. Social support: Married individuals often have a larger social network, including their partner’s family and friends, which can provide emotional and practical support during difficult times.
  5. Improved financial stability: Married couples may enjoy greater financial stability, as they can pool their resources, share expenses, and potentially benefit from dual incomes.
  6. Greater life satisfaction: Studies suggest that marriage can be associated with higher levels of life satisfaction and overall happiness, particularly among those in committed, long-term relationships.
  7. Better health outcomes: Married individuals may experience better health outcomes, as having a supportive partner can encourage healthier behaviors and provide a sense of emotional and physical wellbeing.
  8. Enhanced emotional connection: Sharing experiences, emotions, and intimacy with a partner can lead to a deeper emotional connection that can contribute to overall happiness.
  9. Sense of purpose: Marriage can provide a sense of purpose and meaning in life, as individuals may feel a greater sense of responsibility to their partner and family.
  10. Improved communication skills: Communication skills are essential in any relationship, and being married can provide opportunities for individuals to practice and improve their communication skills, leading to more positive interactions and greater happiness.