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The rom com narrative - we're looking at you Bridget Jones - tells us the roadmap for women is simple; find a man, create a home, raise 2.5 children and your work is done. Happy ending, cue the credit roll.
But times have changed, and it’s now become quite apparent to many women that the path to true happiness doesn’t always have to involve a diamond ring. In fact, one happiness expert is arguing that it’s actually quite the opposite.
According to Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, Unmarried and childless women are the happiest sub-group in the population.
Dolan also argued that these women live longer than their married and child-rearing peers.
“Married people are happier than other population sub-groups but only when their spouse is in the room when they’re asked how happy they are. When the spouse is not present: f*****g miserable,” he said, Speaking at the Hay festival.
“We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: if you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother.
He claims that women don’t benefit from a male influence in their life, while a female partner helps men to “calm down”, thus reducing their stress levels and boosting their wellbeing.
“You take less risks, you earn more money at work and you live a little longer. She, on the other hand, has to put up with that and dies sooner than if she never married. The healthiest and happiest population sub-group are women who never married or had children.”
Dolan’s latest book, Happy Ever After, cites evidence from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) on the correlation between happiness and marriage.
In the book, he shows that there can be many unexpected paths to lasting fulfilment; including, but not limited to, career advancement, lasting friendships, seeing the world or discovering oneself and purpose.