People in Committed Relationships Are Happier Overall

People in committed relationships are happier than people who aren’t, and married people may be the happiest of all.

A new study shows people who are married report the highest levels of well-being, regardless of whether they are happily married or not.

"Even when controlling for relationship happiness, being married is associated with higher self-esteem, greater life satisfaction, greater happiness, and less distress,” says researcher Claire Kamp Dush, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Social Sciences at Cornell University, in a news release.

Next in line on the happiness scale were people who were co-habitating in committed relationships, followed by those in stable relationships and those casually dating.

"In general, people appear to feel better about themselves and their lives when they move into a more committed relationship," says Kamp Dush. "Some commitment appears to be good, but more commitment appears to be even better.”

Commitment Is Healthy

In the study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers analyzed information from 691 young adults who were surveyed in 1992 and 1997. About 30 percent were married and 8 percent were co-habitating with a partner at the time of the first survey.

Researchers assessed overall well-being using measures of self-esteem, life satisfaction, general happiness, and distress symptoms.

The results showed that married people reported the highest well-being and happiness, while people who dated infrequently or not at all reported the lowest.

Researchers say the study confirms that having a romantic relationship makes both men and women happier, and the stronger the relationship’s commitment, the greater the well-being and happiness of the partners.

The finding that people in relatively unhappy marriages appeared to benefit from being married perhaps stemmed from the stability, commitment, and social status of the relationship, the researchers say.

In addition, the study showed that that people who reported lower levels of well-being and happiness during the first survey were more likely to move into more committed relationships by the second survey, and those who did reported greater happiness.

"If they were using committed relationships as a strategy to improve their well-being, it appeared to work," says Kamp Dush.

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Kamp Dush, C. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Oct. 1, 2005; vol 22: pp 607-627. News release Cornell University News Service.