May 26, 2019

"Married people are happier than other population subgroups, but only when their spouse is in the room when they’re asked how happy they are."

"When the spouse is not present: fucking miserable... We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: if you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother. [Men do better because they] calmed down... You take less risks, you earn more money at work, and you live a little longer. She, on the other hand, has to put up with that, and dies sooner than if she never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children.... You see a single woman of 40, who has never had children – ‘Bless, that’s a shame, isn’t it? Maybe one day you’ll meet the right guy and that’ll change.’ No, maybe she’ll meet the wrong guy and that’ll change. Maybe she’ll meet a guy who makes her less happy and healthy, and die sooner."

Said Paul Dolan quoted in "Women are happier without children or a spouse, says happiness expert/Behavioural scientist Paul Dolan says traditional markers of success no longer apply" (The Guardian).

So men who refrain from marrying should be praised for their sacrifice in service to women?

Anyway... "Bless, that’s a shame" is interesting.  Do you use "bless" as an interjection like that? It's not in the OED as an interjection, but I see it in Wiktionary:
(Britain, informal) Used as an expression of endearment, or (ironically) belittlement.
It seems to be a shortening of "bless your heart," which Wiktionary says is used to "express gratitude" or "especially Southern US... to soften criticism or express pity."

71 comments:

pacwest said...

Bless your poor little heart.

Michael K said...

Back in the days when there were enough nuns to survey, it was found that 25% of nuns (including my great aunt) developed breast cancer in their lives. One theory was that pregnancy, especially before the age of thirty, was protective. It may be that birth control pills, of the type that mimic the hormones of pregnancy, have a similar effect.

I suspect that the women who were happy were still in the middle years before loneliness approached in old age.

Gospace said...

My wife is currently in another state, flying back home in 2 weeks. So she's definitely not in the room. I'm happily married, and can't wait for her to be back. And she can't wait to get back.

We've only been married 41 years, though. I can remember being single- and married is better.

Dan in Philly said...

Sorry, a persuasive argument which uses the F word just loses me. If your argument is valid on its own grounds, you really don't need pointless vulgarity to make it, so whenever I see it I assume the writer is blustering her way through a weak point.

AJ Lynch said...

He sounds like he is a comedian. He's just making stuff up.

alanc709 said...

And they wonder why our culture is getting overrun with migrants, while births here are below replacement levels. Do any of these surveys ever question what would happen to society if all women followed their 'sage' advice and never married or bore children? The left is a den of lunatics lacking any vision.

Birkel said...

Be happy, women.
Fail at the biological imperative.
Success!

Your future is nonexistent.

Barry Dauphin said...

Naomi Wolf is married. Maybe we can just blame her husband.

Tomcc said...

Dear Mr. "happiness expert" Dolan: keep your hands off my society!

Automatic_Wing said...

I think this guy might own a lot of cat food stock. Just sayin'.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Bollocks. I’ve seen the spouseless, childless old ladies and happy they are not. Lonely, neurotic, and self-pitying, yes. Happy, no.

Unknown said...

The unmarried, childless women are lying to justify their life decisions.

reader said...

I second TCER and Unknown

Howard said...

Doc Mike: My theory is that because women are pregnant during their younger years, they don't bleed so much. It's gotta be quite a strain on the body to keep making new blood month after month. If the body is always in the making blood mode, then the body is in a making shit mode, which includes tumors

The Minnow Wrangler said...

Maybe I'm weird or pathetic, but after my husband died suddenly in 2015, I was really lonely and I missed having someone to take care of.

I still had my adult disabled son and my brother in law living with me, but it was not the same. I enjoy having someone who depends on me for stability, food, laundry, things like that. Since I am semi retired it motivates me to do something besides sit at the computer all day. It's also nice to have sex and companionship. My new husband is not perfect (neither am I LOL) but I love being with him and I am so thankful he is part of my life.

Tom Ault said...

I'm married, and living intimately with another person forces you to confront your neuroses and weaknesses, including some rather uncomfortable truths. A "male positive" interpretation of Mr. Dolan's "data" is that men handle being confronted with their neuroses and imperfections better than women do, leading to a longer, happier life, while being confronted with their neuroses and imperfections produces chronic stress in women, leading to unhappiness and an earlier death. Another "male positive" interpretation is that men and women equally experience benefits and drawbacks from marriage, but men focus on the positive experiences while women focus on the negative, leading to disparities in happiness and longevity.

See, isn't interpretation fun? So many to choose from!

bagoh20 said...

I think your general happiness is more of an innate quality that people have regardless of life choices. So maybe these choices don't make you happy or not, but your happiness influences the choices you make.

Michael K said...

If the body is always in the making blood mode, then the body is in a making shit mode, which includes tumors

Howard the endocrinologist.

Read it and weep, Howard.

Women who had their first term pregnancy prior to age 21 (n = 441) had a lower cancer incidence especially between age 30-39 years. Kaplan-Meier analysis showed an odds ratio of 0.78 for BRCA1 (p = 0.005) and 0.73 for BRCA2 (p = 0.002).

CONCLUSIONS:
The present study demonstrates a clear protective effect of early first pregnancy on breast cancer risk in both BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers.


That is the high risk group.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

As someone who has lived in the South for decades and is married to a Southern woman, I can assure you that, depending on the circumstance, sometimes "bless your heart" means "Bitch."

mandrewa said...

I don't think this is true. First, I've seen lots of statistics over the years about how much better, by various objective measures, married couples do than the never-married or by those that are divorced. Of course doing better by some objective measure doesn't mean you are necessarily happier, and maybe more importantly, maybe anyone that can stay married would have done pretty well anyway.

And then there is a second category of reasons, which the more I think about, lead to me to doubt the whole thing. Conflict is a part of marriage. It's part of being human. So it's unfortunate, but I think it's build into things, that anger and issues will develop when you are so close to another person. I'll bet just about any married person can if they want to build a list of issues that they are upset about with the other person.

So there are always things to complain about.

Now if you're single, you are not in that situation. What do you complain about? Well of course there actually are things to be unhappy about. But it's harder to articulate what is wrong, not to mention that all roads lead to blaming oneself. And that's problem right there.

I have a hunch that most people, if they were genuinely given the choice would rather be in conflict with a partner, as long as that is not the only thing happening, than be by themselves. And that very few of the people that are alone have deliberately chosen to be so. (Or they may be people that have given up and don't think they can live with someone else.)

The Minnow Wrangler said...

mandrewa said, "Conflict is part of marriage." A lot of this goes away when you are older and figure out that most of the things you might argue about are totally meaningless in the long run. So you learn to ignore the small annoyances that would have started fights when you were younger.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm glad you found a new husband, Minnow Wrangler.

gilbar said...

So, what they're saying;

is that non married women LIE about whether they are happy, when ever they are interviewed?
This makes as much sense as saying married folk lie about it when their spouse is in the room

Seems like self admission of happiness might not be the right way to measure? Maybe a new way?
I'd say that Transgender folk are the happiest, on account of because of the fact that they lead the list on suicides. Wait? you mean leading the list means MOST suicides? never mind

Seriously, how do suicides, clinical depression, etc compare for marrieds vs non marrieds ?

Yancey Ward said...

For the record, Paul Dolan is married, so maybe his wife let him in on the secret.

Paul said...

My wife isn't in the room and I can stay I'm a lucky dog to be married to her.

Quite happy being married 27 years.

Howard said...

Thanks Mike.

Yancey Ward said...

Gilbar nails the real issue- self-reporting bias. Just as a spouse might be biased by the presence of the other, an unmarried, childless woman might be biased by the need for justification.

For the record, I am an unmarried male with no children. I do feel like I have missed on something vitally important- basically all the time. I am not unhappy or even neutral about life, but, yes- I think I would have been happier married with lots of children.

MikeR said...

"Most sociology results are not true."

MikeD said...

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/married-couples-are-happier-than-everyone-else-especially-in-middle-age-2019-05-23

Fen said...

mandrewa: I don't think this is true.

It's not, just another lie the Left is telling women. The Marxists want us dependent on and loyal to the State (Life of Julia) and the family unit interferes with that enslavement.


Conflict is a part of marriage.

You are very wise. It is said that Courage is not the absence of Fear, it's how you comport yourself in the face of Fear. Likewise, a good marriage is not proven by the absence of conflict, but by how that conflict is resolved.

I think the entire premise of the study is bunk. Happiness is not a goal in itself. Happiness is a byproduct from the achievement of goals.

Meade said...

Happy in my first marriage, even happier in my second.

Meade said...

(Or, for Fen— Happily achieved goals in my first marriage, happily achieving even more goals in my second.)

reader said...

If I remember correctly women who breastfeed have a lower risk of beast cancer.

I enjoy being alone and was lucky enough to fall in love with a man who loves to golf. It works for us. For me it’s a perfect blend of being alone and being together. He gets to enjoy his time golfing without guilt. I can’t imagine my life without him.

Yancey Ward said...

Of course you are- Ms. Althouse is reading the comments.

Fen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fen said...

For the record, I am an unmarried male with no children. I do feel like I have missed on something vitally important- basically all the time. I am not unhappy or even neutral about life, but, yes- I think I would have been happier married with lots of children.

Married but we chose not to have kids. Because we were firsthand witnesses to how much our parents sacrificed to raise us, so we decided to instead live selfish lives. More toys, more vacations, a higher standard of living.

Looking back, it was a mistake. But we don't bother with regrets, because it's too late to go back, so we accept the path we chose and enjoy it to the fullest. Being miserable about it would simply be a second mistake.

The marriage itself has been beautiful. I have a lovely, funny, sane (and patient!) companion who has 30 IQ points on me and is as much a part of me as my right arm.

Fen said...

(Or, for Fen— Happily achieved goals in my first marriage, happily achieving even more goals in my second.)

Good on you.

My "don't seek happiness for it's own sake" comes from CS Lewis. He said it much better than me but I can't find the quote atm.

Oso Negro said...

@Gilbar - I agree: unmarried women feel the most pressure to report "happiness" whether true or not.

wwww said...

"Said Paul Dolan quoted in "Women are happier without children or a spouse, says happiness expert/Behavioural scientist Paul Dolan says traditional markers of success no longer apply" (The Guardian)."

Anti-natalist propaganda. There's a lot of research showing that the happiest are couples with children between ages 4-11 years old. And kids are pretty darn cute as babies and toddlers.

rcocean said...

Isn't this just another round-about way for us to praise women? Oh, the poor dears would be happier alone, but they sacrifice themselves for the benefit of their children and their husbands (the beasts).

And of course it leads to... Why are women unhappy? And what can men do to make them feel better? Do more housework? Sent them flowers on mother's day? etc.

rcocean said...

I'm not too sure how you measure happiness. Do you use a thermometer or a measuring tape?

The Minnow Wrangler said...

Thanks Althouse. It was pretty weird how it happened. We met on Match.com and I was attracted to his good spelling and grammar (a rarity on dating websites). We both used fake names. Shortly thereafter Facebook suggested him as a "friend" (he used the same pic for both websites). So we started messaging on FB.

I moved 250 miles away and we never met in person until he happened to be driving his truck through my town and he suggested we get together for coffee. On our half hour first date I observed that he had nice eyes and nice hands. After that we texted each other a lot more. He wanted me to ride with him in his semi to visit his parents in New York state for a two week trip. I was like no way, that is crazy, I don't even know you. Somehow I talked myself into going (my friends said, what have you got to lose?). I was very nervous, worried about sexual assault, being abandoned at a truck stop, etc.

But I went and the rest was history. We enjoyed each other's company, and he was a perfect gentleman until I didn't want him to be LOL.

rcocean said...

We know one woman who would NOT have been happier single and alone: Hillary. Without Bill, she'd be a Yale Law Professor with 10 cats.

tcrosse said...

As an old bachelor in a sitcom once said, "Why should I make one woman miserable when I can make dozens happy?"

FIDO said...

I will believe this study when it is, not peer reviewed, because the sociology peers are no longer academics, but given a fierce analysis of the statistical process and numbers.

Because this is another poll that tells single academic women exactly what they want to hear...

Funny how that works out.

mandrewa said...

There's another angle to this that I find myself thinking about.

What is that people are really unhappy about?

I have a suspicion that most of the real issues are directed towards ourselves.

If you buy the idea that it is what others do that makes you unhappy, then it kind of makes sense to doubt marriage.

But if the reality is that we mostly care about our own inadequacies and how we are disappointed with ourselves and that we really don't care that much about what the other person is doing wrong, unless they are doing something like hitting us or something, then it puts a whole different light on things.

One of the gifts of marriage is that you can blame your partner for what are really your problems. That's a questionable gift but for some people it is going to be quite real.

And the more genuine gift is that just by having someone else that has a clue about who you are, that lightens the load of dealing with your own issues, and makes all sorts of things possible that you can't do by yourself.

Bay Area Guy said...

Loneliness and boredom are twin killers as you get older. You spend a lot of time and energy raising these critters, but you do have to pivot away once they've left the nest and find sources of mutual enjoyment with your wife.

Me, I almost never get bored. Too many books to read, too many dogs to walk.

Bob Boyd said...

So married people lie when their spouse is present, but the single, childless women are taken at their word?

Bill Peschel said...

This is a tell: We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: if you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother.”

So he give terrible advice to people, knowing that it's terrible and will lead people into making an irrevocable decision they'll regret.

Good job, dude.

(Personal states: 26 years married, two kids. Thrilled to be married for all the good reasons.)

Michael K said...

Blogger is now just deleting comments. To repeat.

Blogger Howard said...
Thanks Mike.


Howard, you are more sensible than the commenter at Chicagoboyz today who commented that the only treatment for preeclampsia is abortion. My niece's two boys would disagree. Both born by c-section for preeclampsia.

Gospace said...

rcocean said...
We know one woman who would NOT have been happier single and alone: Hillary. Without Bill, she'd be a Yale Law Professor with 10 cats.


All available evidence says she's not happy, but a bitter old crone fuming at being rejected by the American people - twice. Sad when the inheritance you were expecting doesn't come through. Well, not for us.

Fen said...

"This is a tell"

Not to mention response bias.

When I worked for the Lt Gov, who do think we heard from? The people happy with us or the ones with complaints?

People happy with marriage are less motivated to talk about it.

Gospace said...

Michael K said...

Howard, you are more sensible than the commenter at Chicagoboyz today who commented that the only treatment for preeclampsia is abortion. My niece's two boys would disagree. Both born by c-section for preeclampsia.


My wife spent a week in the hospital being monitored prior to the birth of child #1 of 5. Because she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. Travelling cross country by car with the fast food restaurant diet associated with such travel very likely contributed to her condition at the time. Also possibly the stress of moving 3000 miles while in the final month of pregnancy.

Michael K said...

Gospace, preeclampsia is almost always a third trimester condition. There are theories about the cause. Older women and first pregnancies are a little more common but I have seen teenage girls with full on eclampsia, seizures and all.

My 38 year old daughter is in her third month with first pregnancy and her mother and I are watching her blood pressure. Her cousin has had two pregnancies with c-sections for preeclampsia. She is 40 and her second boy was born at Christmas.

Henry said...

I do not know that happiness and length of life have any relationship.

“For most people, life is nasty, brutish, and short; for me, it has simply been nasty and brutish.”
-- Djuna Barnes

wwww said...

Preeclampsia can be a precursor to eclampsia or HELLP syndrome. Preeclampsia needs watching and treatment. Eclampsia or HELLP is more of an emergency situation.

Many people happily risk all of these conditions for their children & it's well worth it. Babies and children make people very happy. The anti-natalist propaganda is a lie that some people like to perpetuate. Studies have shown these "happiness studies" are messed up. Studies show stable, happy marriages with children (who are not yet teenagers) = the happiest people.

Henry said...

Althouse raises more questions than the professor has answers!

Q. What about married people with spreadsheets?

Q. What about lifestyle coaches?

Q. What about Moby?

wwww said...

Q. What about married people with spreadsheets?
We're the happiest. The only thing that makes it better would be POWERPOINT!

Q. What about lifestyle coaches?
Only happy when feeling superior to others.

Q. What about Moby?
Nope. Not Happy.

Narr said...

Forty-two years, mostly good. One child, starting to grow up at 33. Don't foresee grandkids but you never know. Last of the parents gone, wife may retire in the next 12-18 mos.

Means, motive, and opportunity for some travel.

Narr
All without spreadsheets!

Earnest Prole said...

An elegant Southern woman once told me you can be as honest as you wish in your criticism of someone not present so long as you append the words "bless her heart" to whatever you say. Example: "She's crazier than an out­house fly, bless her heart."

Michael K said...

Preeclampsia can be a precursor to eclampsia or HELLP syndrome. Preeclampsia needs watching and treatment. Eclampsia or HELLP is more of an emergency situation.

Oh yes but not abortion. It is usually third trimester,

The subject came up in a discussion of abortion. There certainly are some medical reasons for abortion, like breast cancer. Not many but a few. Most of the medical reasons I have seen are third trimester. We used to see women going into heart failure from mitral stenosis undetected. Those were almost all Mexican with no prenatal care. Still, usually late enough for c-section although the risk was high.

Bruce Hayden said...

One theory about pregnancy and breast cancer is that female breasts don’t fully mature until pregnancy, preparing for their traditionally primary purpose - lactation (I said “traditionally” because for many women these days they are primarily a sexual lure - one theory there being that they grew from their formally functional size to lure males from rear to front entry, as we began to walk upright).

Bruce Hayden said...

Blogger Meade said...
“Happy in my first marriage, even happier in my second”

It is her blog, so I would suggest that this is equivalent to wives being in the same room. /sarc

(But she seems happy, which probably suggests that you are being honest here)

Gahrie said...

The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children

Perhaps we could also describe this subgroup as the most selfish?

cf said...

* i think wwww is right, "babies and children make people very happy. The anti-natalist propaganda is a lie that some people like to perpetuate."

* Thank you, Michael K, as usual, for great context

* about "bless your heart" -- my West texas border experience of the phrase is not negative in any way. it is possible the phrase grows a bit bitchy as you head East starting with the sophisticates in Dallas, and headed toward the true South -- what do I know? --, but for me the Wiktionary misses its classic & healing function of this compassionate phrase.

"Wiktionary says is used to 'express gratitude' <> or ... to soften criticism or express pity.' that is a negative way to describe the profound and gentle compassion implicit in its normal use. In small town Texas, you can often know SO MUCH MORE about your neighbors trouble than you should have to, and it is a sign of respect & comfort amid unfortunate circumstance. it is a signal "We see the mess, but it happens to all of us & we will not judge you unkindly, dear, we will avert our eyes while you tidy up." it is the kind of the thing good people do for each other, and there are lot of good people out there still, aren't there?

And by the way, wiktionary, pretty sure it also most always meant the speaker was truly blessing this person in real time, "god be with you now and bless you, may it all go well for you now, Bless. Your. Heart."




Michael K said...

One theory about pregnancy and breast cancer is that female breasts don’t fully mature until pregnancy, preparing for their traditionally primary purpose - lactation

This gets into a theory about fibrocystic disease of the breast. Futile cycling for 30 years or more. I don't know about any evidence.

Here is a little evidence.

High parity and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables were more strongly associated with a reduced risk of proliferative and atypical lesions than with nonproliferative conditions.

Not much help. Parity = number of children. Babies young =protection.

Not an oldster. said...

Never underestimate the value of good genes and healthy diets, Dr Mike... Low stress lifestyles too.

Good luck to your daughter. (Do you have her permission to share her confidential details here? Again, good luck to her. Hope the baby latches easily too...)

John Lynch said...

Sour grapes, indeed. Lol.

Fen said...

* about "bless your heart" -- my West texas border experience of the phrase is not negative in any way. it is possible the phrase grows a bit bitchy as you head East starting with the sophisticates in Dallas, and headed toward the true South -- what do I know? --, but for me the Wiktionary misses its classic & healing function of this compassionate phrase.

Haha. Native Texan, born and raised in Dallas. Yes, as you head east the phrase morphs from "you poor thing" to "you pathetic creature". It's used derisively, usually by women, as a passive-aggressive attack that I find cowardly. Say what you mean. Don't hide behind fake smiles and then act innocent when challenged for being rude.

Birches said...

A friend from church had preeclampsia with her 4th baby. The doctors were monitoring her closely because she wanted to keep the baby as long as possible before the c section. I saw her the day before the baby's birth. She was completely grey and her eyes were yellow. She looked dead. But once the baby came out she was fine. And no long weeks in the NICU for the baby. Seemed like a smart decision.

Narr said...

I'm a lifelong west Tennessean and the "Bless her heart" thing is usually considered fairly snide and demeaning in the third person; but in the second person as unironic gratitude, especially among the older generations, not so.

Southern American dialects have always fascinated me (ok dialects fascinate me). The Nawlins dialect has bits of Joysie and Brooklyn to my ear (or at least it used to-I got theories), and some years back I saw an interview with a young singer doing Siegfried and told my friend, "damn, that boy's from . . . Louisiana or Texas." Boom--east Texas as I recall.

Narr
He do the voices