Marriage makes people happier than religious beliefs, earning six-figure salaries and having children, a study for the Office of National Statistics has found for the first time.
A quarter of people in England and Wales are single Photo: ALAMY
The ONS has found that being married is 20 times more important to a person’s well-being than their earnings, and 13 times more important than owning a home.
The figures also indicate that having children has almost no impact on a person’s day-to-day happiness, although it does make them feel life is more “worthwhile”.
The ONS analysis was based on an survey of 165,000 people, in which they were asked to rate their life in four areas: their satisfaction with life, how worthwhile they thought their life was, how happy and how anxious they felt.
For the first time, the ONS has been able to use the data to rank the factors which contribute to happiness and well-being. Health and employment are the two most important factors, with marriage or civil partnerships coming third.
On a scale of 0 to 10, married people were on average 0.14 points happier than co-habiting couples, 0.3 points happier than single people and 0.4 points happier than those who were divorced or separated.
Dawn Snape, one of the authors of the report, said: “It [marriage] gives people a sense of stability, and a greater sense that their life is worthwhile.
“I think that the issue with children is that we probably all recognise the saying ‘you are only as happy as your unhappiest child’. Parents have a responsibility and that in itself can add to the perceived burden.
“People are happiest in their youth and when they are older. Middle-aged people are the least happy because they have the most responsibility.”
The researchers said they made some unexpected findings. They found that people with degrees were significantly more anxious than those who had not been to university, while the top 10% of Britain’s earners were more anxious than those who earned less.
Those who described themselves as being in very bad health put their life satisfaction rating some 2.4 points lower than those in good health, with their happiness scores 2.6 points behind those who are well.
Unemployed people have significantly lower levels of satisfaction with their life, happiness, and feeling that their life is worthwhile, than those in employment, the ONS found.
They are also more likely to be anxious. People who are in work but looking for another job also recorded lower well-being scores than those happy with their position, according to the analysis.
Overall, personal well-being is the highest for young and older adults, with those in middle age recording lower scores, the ONS found.
An ONS spokesman said: “Gaining an understanding of what influences personal well-being is an important aspect of national well-being, but is only part of a broader picture that draws on a range of economic, social and environmental statistics to show how the country is doing.”
Approximately 160,000 people from across Great Britain were surveyed from between April 2011 and March 2012 for the study.
SOURCE: The Telegraph