Health and Happiness
One of the most extensive psychological and sociological literatures relevant to people who are single is study of the relative health and happiness of married and single people. The long list of references in this section is not exhaustive. Outcomes of interest are extensive and include (among others) mental health, physical health, longevity, suicide, happiness, life-satisfaction, and well-being. This literature has been developed primarily by scholars interested in marriage. Those who have found differences in health or happiness across different civil statuses often pose the question of whether marriage "causes" those differences or whether different kinds of people are "selected" into marriage in the first place. Rarely is a stigma hypothesis entertained–i.e., that married and single people are differentially valued in society. The question as to whether there are differences in health or well-being across civil statuses has generated a number of answers, and most are still contested. The proposed answers include: (1) Marriage seems to benefit men but may not benefit women. (2) It is not marriage that matters but consistency; people who have always been single fare just as well as people who have always been married, and both do better than those who have been divorced or widowed. (3) Differences between married and single people are decreasing over time. (4) The degree to which marriage matters differs across cultures. (5) People have their own characteristic levels of happiness; marriage may be associated with a brief blip in happiness but happiness will then return to its characteristic level. (6) Just as it can be misleading to lump together all single people, so too can it be misleading to do the same with married people; women in particular may be especially responsive to the quality of the marriage.
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