People in committed
relationships are happier
Newswise — People in
relationships are generally happier than other people, a new
Cornell University study finds. And spouses have the highest
sense of well-being, whether they are happily married or
The study of measures of
well-being and happiness found that people who cohabit are
next on the scale of happiness, followed by those in steady
relationships and then those in casual relationships.
Unpartnered people report the lowest levels of well-being.
The bottom line, say the
Cornell researchers, is that having a romantic relationship
makes both men and women happier -- and the stronger the
relationship's commitment, the greater the happiness and
sense of well-being of the partners.
"Some commitment appears
to be good, but more commitment appears to be even better,"
said Claire Kamp Dush, a postdoctoral fellow with the
Evolving Family Theme Project of the Institute for Social
Sciences at Cornell and first author of one of the few
studies to examine well-being across the relationship
continuum. The study was published in a recent issue of the
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (22:5,
Interestingly, even those
in relatively unhappy marriages appear to benefit from being
married, Kamp Dush said, perhaps because they benefit from
marriage's stability, commitment and social status.
"Even when controlling for
relationship happiness, being married is associated with
higher self-esteem, greater life satisfaction, greater
happiness and less distress, whereas people who are not in
stable romantic relationships tend to report lower
self-esteem, less life satisfaction, less happiness and more
distress," she explained.
"In general, people appear
to feel better about themselves and their lives when they
move into a more committed relationship," she added.
In analyzing whether
happier individuals are more likely to enter into committed
relationships or if committed relationships actually improve
well-being, the researchers found that moving into committed
relationships makes people happier. "Those most likely to
move into more committed relationships were actually those
who reported lower levels of well-being when first
surveyed," Kamp Dush said. "Therefore, if they were using
committed relationships as a strategy to improve their
well-being, it appeared to work."
Kamp Dush and co-author
Paul Amato of Pennsylvania State University analyzed data
from the study of Marital Instability Over the Life Course
that included telephone interviews with 691 individuals in
1992 and 1997. Well-being was assessed with measures of
self-esteem, life satisfaction, general happiness and
relationships -- which range from casual dating to marriage
-- is important, Kamp Dush noted, because such relationships
have the potential to affect people's mental health,
physical health, sexuality and financial status.
The study was supported,
in part, by the National Institute on Aging and the
Population Research Institute of Pennsylvania State
University with core support from the National Institute of
Child Health and Human Development.