Last month, behavioural scientist Paul Dolan from the London School of Economics claimed that unmarried women were notably happier than married women, suggesting that, if women wanted to live a most fulfilled life, they should stay both single and childless.
We may have suspected it already, but now the science backs it up: unmarried and childless women are the happiest subgroup in the population. And they are more likely to live longer than their married and child-rearing peers, according to a leading expert in happiness.
Speaking at the Hay festival on Saturday, Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, said the latest evidence showed that the traditional markers used to measure success did not correlate with happiness – particularly marriage and raising children.
“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.”
Dolan was promoting his book, Happy Ever After, in which he uses statistics from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS)—which raises an immediate question of whether the survey data was intended to be used in this way. It is also worth asking whether ‘being happy’ is the primary reason to make decisions about the direction of our lives. Guardian columnist Susanne Moore asks in response: