Are married people happier?

Are married people happier?
Are married people happier?


  • A report based on Gallup surveys collected between 2008 and 2023 attempted to answer the question “are married people happier?”
  • According to the data from heterosexual Americans, being married is positively linked to the sense of thriving in life.
  • Surprisingly, the percentage of married couples has a positive impact on the whole community.
  • The report doesn’t give evidence that marriage is the cause of happiness, however.
  • It’s possible that people who decide to get married have a certain set of character traits which make them more predestined to thrive in life.
  • In my sex therapy practice many couples share they are happy together but feel more like friends than lovers.

When I was a kid I used to watch this American TV show that started with a song by Frank Sinatra. It went like this “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” But is this really so? I recently found an article explaining the results of the analysis of Gallup surveys on happiness and well-being and became intrigued by the results. So, are married people happier in the end?

A recent report prepared by Gallup and a conservative think tank Institute for Family Studies explores whether there’s a connection between subjective well-being and marital status. The analysis was based on a huge database collected by Gallup from surveys among Americans between 2008 and 2023. 

Here’s what the report revealed:

Married People Are More Likely To Be Thriving in Life

Data from different years showed a consistent positive correlation between marriage and thriving in life. But what does it mean to thrive in life? People who took part in the surveys were asked to rate how close their current life was to “best possible.” Next, they had to answer how they expected that rating to be in the future. 

Those who were classified as “thriving” answered at least 7 out of 10 on their current life satisfaction scale and at least 8 when predicting future happiness. 

According to the most recent data from 2023 (from people aged 25 to 50), being married increased the chances of wellbeing by 17 percentage points, compared to adults who never married. That “happiness advantage” has been consistent over the years, ranging from 12 up to 24 percentage points! Now that’s a lot!

The Effect of Married Couples on Local Communities

Another surprising finding concerns the impact of married couples on the wellbeing of others who live in the same town or city. It turns out that you have a higher chance of living a good life in a place with high marriage rates!

In addition, the more married couples live in a community, the fewer deaths of despair, for example suicides and drug overdoses, happen. 

Married People Are Happier But Why?

Before you run to buy an engagement ring, be aware that the results of the Gallup analysis don’t mean that marriage is the cause of happiness. The data only points out the link between subjective well-being and being married.

Could the explanation of this phenomenon have something to do with people’s characters?

Experts speculate that higher life satisfaction among married people may not be so much linked to the fact of them being in a formal union, but to the individual personality traits that led those people to enter and stay in a committed relationship in the first place.

I think it goes both ways. Some of us are naturally positive, easy going people who are fun to be around. But a good relationship can also help us become happier human beings. We grow together and our spouses’ personality has the power to inspire us. 

A good relationship can also help us become happier human beings.

I know that’s been the case in my own marriage. My husband and I have so many things in common and yet we’re so different. Where I see risk, he sees opportunity. He hardly ever gets sad or frustrated. I know I’ll never be like him (now that would be boring!) but he inspires me every day to strive for that level of resilience and optimism. 

Photo by Heiner/Pexels

What’s a Happy Marriage Anyway?

It goes without saying that if we’re to feel the positive effect of marriage on our life that marriage should be a happy one. But what does that even mean? 

The answer will be different for you and for me. It depends on the culture we live in, our values, and a million other factors. 

Here in Zurich, Switzerland, where I run my sex therapy practice, I see couples who struggle in the bedroom, but are otherwise happy together. 

When I ask them about the key to a happy marriage, they tell me they are good friends. Even after many years together they enjoy each other’s company and are curious about one another. 

Looking for sex counseling for couples?

Here are some of the things I believe make a happy marriage:

  • Clear rules. Marriage is an official religious rite or a legal ceremony. In most countries, like here in Switzerland, the couple is asked to repeat the predefined words of a marriage oath or declaration. Depending on the type of marriage ritual, people promise each other lasting love, mutual care, and fidelity. But how often do those people really think about what these declarations mean? Clear rules and values help couples feel safe and withstand difficult periods. 
  • Autonomy. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a fan of name changing after marriage. Some countries at least cultivate the double-name tradition. I feel uneasy when it’s always the woman who assumes the name of her husband in a heterosexual union. To me it gives off an impression of her giving up some of her identity for the sake of the spouse. Whatever your personal views are, cultivating individual self-worth, interests (and even separate bank accounts for some) reduces the risk of over-relying on our partner to make us happy. 
  • Kindness. It’s a simple and forgotten virtue. It’s not Hollywood-style dramatic. Everyday kindness is what stays when the initial passion and the “crazy in love” phase end. Small acts of service, like making your wife a cup of tea or remembering to hang the towels in a certain order because your husband likes it this way, are more important than buckets of roses (although I do appreciate receiving flowers once in a while). 

What’s the Role of Sex in a Marriage?

Traditionally sex was only sanctioned in a marriage and its role was limited to producing legitimate offspring. Today, we can enjoy ourselves in the bedroom without risking an unplanned pregnancy. Still, lots of couples complain about low sex drive and unsatisfying sex in marriage and come to me and my colleagues for sex therapy.

Intimacy is the lifeline of a relationship. The couples I work with on low desire tell me they are losing their bond as the sex dries out. And it’s not just the intercourse that disappears off the menu. For many it’s the whole package. No kissing, no sensual touch, no sexy whispers. Some couples hold hands or hug while watching “Bridgerton” but these are more friendly expressions – there’s no fire in them. 

I chose to train in a somatic psychotherapy method called Bioenergetic Analysis because one of its principles is that pleasure is our life force. Orgasms are like the electric current that nurtures our vitality and helps us overcome hardship. 

People who don’t receive or give themselves regular pleasure may have a tendency to depressive moods. One of the symptoms to diagnose depression is called anhedonia – the inability to experience pleasure. So, the lack of sexual contact between spouses may be linked to their mental health and the atmosphere in the relationship may suffer.

“Marriage is finding someone who can stand you”

Amy Schumer

Can You Be Single and Happy?

Should you sign up with a matchmaker after reading the Gallup report? Certainly not! If you’re currently single and living your best life, there’s no point trying to find a spouse. 

Nowadays the institution of marriage is losing its meaning and focusing on the question “are married people happier” doesn’t take into account the full spectrum of modern relationships. Many people choose not to have a wedding but still live in long-term relationships. And what about gay and lesbian couples? What about those who opt for less popular options such as polyamory? I hope that researchers will follow up on the “are married people happier” question and check how happiness and being in any kind of relationship play together. 

Those of us who are married or in a relationship should constantly work on the quality of our life together. After all, wearing a golden ring in your finger won’t magically make you happy.

Go Back to Good Sex in Your Marriage or Relationship

My favorite mantra as a sex therapist is “In sex there is always hope.” I firmly believe that it’s never too late to solve intimate problems. At any age we can learn to enjoy lovemaking again.

Sex therapy can help you and your partner see the root cause of your challenges (things like low libido often have an underlying cause).

With my help you can learn how to talk about intimate topics without shame or stress. I give you concrete tools and exercises to try at home. By building a new approach you can open a new sexual chapter in life. Remember how it felt to giggle in bed with that special person after a night of making love? Book a first sex therapy session in Zurich or Thalwil and find out how I can help you go back to good sex.

8 Comments on “Are married people happier?”

  1. I agree that friendship is inevitable if you decide to spend life with someone. But so is intimacy and good sex. Can a long life relationship be good without good sex? Probably it could but (assuming monogamy) a vital part of life is excluded – and that’s a pity. Sometimes it is so damn hard to reach out for specialists help though!

  2. That is very interesting… because I have read another survey that the most happy and healthy social group is single women 🙈 I guess it depends on who does the research and what do they define as happiness. For me personally happiness is something you should look for inside of yourself not in others. In that case YOUR happiness will depend on external factors, circumstances and people…

    1. Yes, for sure there’s different study designs and this report was supported by an institution which aims to promote marriage so there’s an angle here for sure. But the data is strong as it’s been collected over a long period by Gallup, so good quality research. They asked people about their sense of thriving in live, meaning on a scale of 1 to 10 are you living your best life and about the prospects for the future. I too think this is a bit one-sided and would love to see a comparison with singles and people living in relationships but not marriage. And also not only heterosexuals.

  3. What I observe working with women in the area of relationships is that being married makes them more safe, more stable, socially recognized and gives them a sense of belonging to a family. And that sense of belonging is one of the most important thing for human beings. But to make a marriage a happy place for me its an every day commitment, conciousness, acceptance, inspiration and work.
    I remember when I was engaged, I could not wait until I will be able to say to people:that’s my husband, it was so important for me to have a family! And even today when I hear my husband speaking about me:my wife, I feel the same inner joy like at the beginning.

    1. Thank you for sharing! I too believe that there is power in commitment and ritual. At least for some of us. The key is not to assume that marriage somehow means that you don’t need to try anymore but treat it as an intention to give your best every day.

  4. I enjoyed that post souch . Thank you Anka for all. I am happily married for 20 years. Had our ups and downs. We did grow together. Support each other. And yes we are friends for ever. Have our ridiculous arguing. But have also the best laugh. Can’t wait where it will take us. Intimacy is very important for my partner, good he is taking care of that . I probably wouldn’t take care of it much.

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