Want a bit of happiness in your life? Then get married. Married people are happier than those who aren’t, suggests new Office of National Statistics (ONS) data on the “happiness index” published last week. This may raise eyebrows among 1970s comedians who joked about “the wife” and “the ball and chain”, but is music to my ears.
The figures show 82% of people in marriages or civil partnerships said they rated their life satisfaction as high or medium. For cohabiting couples, the figure drops to 79% while single people polled 71%. (That’s still quite high really, I think, demonstrating that we’re generally a happy lot). For divorced people, the rating is 60%. There Guardian has an article on this here.
Where did these figures come from and should we really put any store in them? Well it all comes from the coalition’s attempt to distract us from the dire state of the economy (the stats came out the day before latest GDP figures show the economy shrank 0.7 per cent in the last quarter putting us in officially the worst double dip recession for 50 years) by coming up with an alternative measure of national performance to Gross Domestic Product. And so the happiness index was born. A survey asked 165,000 people about happiness and anxiety levels and the first results are coming out now.
Overall, the headline is that married pensioners living in their own countryside home are the happiest people in Britain. It also helps if you live on a small island: the Orkney Islands and Anglesey feature first and third respectively in the top five happy areas. But it is the message that marriage brings happiness that is the attention grabber for me.
Cynics among you might suggest that the reason this makes me personally happy is that I run a divorce firm and so the more people who marry, the more get divorced so the more potential business there is. This is not a driving factor for me. Others may suggest that the fact that somewhere between a third and a half of marriages end in divorce shows that the happiness index is fundamentally flawed. Being married can’t make you that happy if there are so many divorces. However, that does mean that more than half survive the test of time.
But more pertinent is that this is a snapshot and the snapshot illustrates convincingly that being married makes people happy. It might not last forever, but this great institution remains something that brings joy and that many people aspire to. And that makes ME happy.