Single men are happier than married men

If the wedding day is really the most beautiful day of your life, as the saying goes, then things could really only go downhill from then on. But that is by no means the case. Those who are married are particularly happy. Happiness researchers have been emphasizing this for decades.

A doctorate, a great job, or an eight-room villa - none of it makes you as happy as being married. And nothing keeps you so healthy. Those who are married are less likely to end up in hospital and even live longer as a single person.

But things are getting better and better for singles' health. They are now doing almost as well as married people. At least that's what two American sociologists report in the specialist magazine Journal of Health and Social Behavior. "We have always thought that in the interests of public health, people should be encouraged to marry," write Hui Liu and Debra Umberson. "But that is becoming less and less important."

The scientists evaluated the wellbeing of 1.2 million Americans surveyed over the past 30 years as part of the National Health Interview Survey. Conclusion: Married women and men are still a little less sick than single people, but the difference is getting smaller and smaller. "The gap is closing," says Liu. "Especially for men."

This is not simply because people today live together without a marriage license. Real singles are also better off, as Ruut Veenhoven from the University of Rotterdam confirms. The happiness researcher has evaluated Eurobarometer data - and comes to a similar result as his US colleagues with regard to satisfaction.

One of the most important reasons for the better health and the greater happiness of the single person is probably: Those who have never married no longer bears the stamp that they cannot be placed.

Singles are less stigmatized today

Because even if getting married is chic again, the number of marriages has fallen drastically - in Germany between 1991 and 2005 by 14 percent. "But when the proportion of those who have never married increases, singles are also less stigmatized," said Liu. "It makes being single less stressful." And that has a positive effect on health.

It is less stress and more satisfaction that happiness researchers have so far cited as the most important causes for the greater well-being of the married couple. "Man is medicine for man," says an African proverb, and sociologists have confirmed this. This was especially true for men - probably because in marriage a woman takes care of them and tells them not to drink so much beer, drive more carefully and also go to the doctor. Wives, on the other hand, benefited from the economic advantages of marriage - a higher income.

But the importance of all these health-promoting factors is diminishing among married couples, while singles enjoy new benefits. Nowadays, well-meaning friends or professional helpers take on the role of the warning wife for single people, says Liu. And prosperity also contributes to the declining health advantage of the married couple. Because sick people and even more sick men have more chances on the marriage market today. "Today's emancipated women," says Veenhoven, "are more likely to be able to afford to marry weaker men."