There may be something to Cyndi Lauper’s popular song, Girls Just Want To Have Fun, according to one expert. Paul Dolan, a professor of Behavioral Science at London School of Economics and an expert on happiness as a general subject believes that women without children and husbands are happier and more likely to outlive women who have families.
Professor Dolan believes that new data supports the idea that what society deems to be “success” probably doesn’t correlate with overall happiness levels.
Conversely, married men appear to benefit from their marriages more than women, as it requires them to “calm down” some.
“You take less risks, you earn more money at work, and you live a little longer,” Professor Dolan said of men. “She, on the other hand, has to put up with that, and she dies sooner than if she never married.”
“The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children,” he continued.
“Married people are happier than other population subgroups, but only when their spouse is in the room when they are asked how happy they are. When the spouse is not present: f*****g miserable.”
“We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that academic science and just say: if you are a man, you should probably get married; if you are a woman, don’t bother.”
In an amusing twist, according to evidence from the American Time Use Survey, survey respondents only reported higher levels of happiness with being married when their spouses were in the room.
The American Time Use Survey compares happiness levels of unmarried, married, divorced, widowed, and separated people.
While a woman’s happiness may be impacted by having a family, Professor Dolan doesn’t see a great deal of impact on a woman’s health from marriage, though middle-aged married women seemed to be at a higher risk of some physical and mental conditions compared to middle-aged women who were still single.
While these line of thinking is kind of funny, Professor Dolan thinks that there could be a darker angle to it. As women get older, they may feel greater pressure from society to quickly shack up with a guy, leading to potentially life-threatening problems.
“You see a single woman of 40, who has never had children – ‘Bless, that’s a shame, isn’t it? Maybe one day you’ll meet the right guy and that’ll change.’ No, maybe she’ll meet the wrong guy and that’ll change. Maybe she’ll meet a guy who makes her less happy and healthy, and die sooner.”
As far as children go, Professor Dolan thinks that they could also potentially cause issues for both men and women.
“It would be categorically awful if anything happened to them, but the experiences we have with children are largely miserable,” he said of couples with children. While some do love having children, he noted concerns about societal pressure to have kids.
“For a lot of people it isn’t, and the idea that we can’t talk openly about why that might be is a problem.”