Are married people truly happier? Here’s what the data says

Gallup Poll shows couples at advantage, but not everyone agrees

According to a Gallup Poll published Friday, a married life is often a happier life. Adults who are married reported being far happier than all others.

“Any way you analyze those data, we see a fairly large and notable advantage to being married in terms of how people evaluate their life,” poll author Jonathan Rothwell told CNN.

From 2009 to 2023, the poll asked more than 2.5 million U.S. adults how they would rate their current life on a 10-point scale. Married people reported their happiness levels were anywhere from 12% to 24% higher than what unmarried people reported.

“Things like race and age and gender and education matter,” University of Virginia professor of sociology and director of the National Marriage Project Bradford Wilcox told CNN. “But marriage seems to matter more than those things when it comes to something like this measure of kind of living your best life.”

“We’re social animals,” he added. “And as Aristotle said, we are hardwired to connect.”

According to Boston psychologist Dr. Monica O’Neal, however, getting married is not necessarily a shortcut to a happier life. It remains difficult to say if marriage is the root cause of higher levels of happiness.

“I still believe that those who have unhappy marriages are probably less happy than those who are single,” she told CNN.

Jonathan Rothwel added, “I don’t think we’re ever going to get to a point in social science where we can say whether or not and with any precision whether marriage causes happiness.”

With that in mind, the increased levels of happiness being reported in married couples could be do a rising trend.

“In my practice over the last decade I’ve noticed a gradual shift from the ‘romantic marriage’ to the ‘companionate marriage,’ meaning that people are increasingly choosing spouses at the outset who are more like best friends than passion-partners,” licensed marriage and family therapist Ian Kerner told CNN.