Are married people happier in later life?

If you think being married is key to a happy life, think again, says study.

Research has previously found married people have a greater sense of life satisfaction in later life compared to divorced or single people. Whilst this may be the case, the conclusions were based on a snapshot in time, and life is more complicated than that.

In the following study, researchers from Michigan State University set out to quantify life satisfaction in married, previously married and single people to determine how much a marital relationship mattered to overall wellbeing in later life.

The researchers analysed the relationship histories of over 7500 people enrolled on the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to find out who was happiest in older age. The Panel study has gathered five decades of data and is the worlds longest study measuring economic and social wellbeing changes in the same families over time.

Seventy-eight per cent of people in the study were long-term married, single people made up eight per cent of the group, and thirteen per cent had varied relationship histories – in and out of relationships throughout life.

The results published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that long-term married people reported greater life satisfaction in later life compared to the other two groups. However, although the difference between the groups was significant, it was small.

The researchers found no significant difference in wellbeing between people with varied relationship histories and single people.

 “When it comes to happiness, whether someone is in a relationship or not is rarely the whole story. “People can certainly be in unhappy relationships, and single people derive enjoyment from all sorts of other parts of their lives, like their friendships, hobbies and work. In retrospect, if the goal is to find happiness, it seems a little silly that people put so much stock in being partnered,” said William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at MSU and co-author in MSU Today.


Mariah F. Purol , Victor N. Keller , Jeewon Oh , William J. Chopik & Richard E. Lucas (2020): Loved and lost or never loved at all? Lifelong marital histories and their links with subjective well-being, The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2020.1791946

To link to this article:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: