For some time now, we’ve been told that married men live longer than single men. That might be the case, or is it just because the married men have partners who made them fill out the survey? Maybe the single men haven’t opened the mail in a few months! Conversely, according to behavioural scientist Paul Dolan, “the healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children.”
That’s a pretty broad statement to make. And as a married woman with five kids I am reticent to compare myself to my single, childless girlfriends.
These ‘findings’ seem to grossly underestimate how diverse we are as a population and I don’t believe our happiness or our health can be generalised and aggregated to conclude that married men live longer or married women die first. What happens to people in their lives is intensely personal and non-comparative and most people would feel very different on any different day depending on their circumstances.
There might be very little correlation between how happy you are, your relationship status and the number of kids you have, but here are some scientifically-proven happiness hacks you can try:
The first single childless girlfriend of mine I tried to chat with texted back ‘can’t talk now, on a date’. Then she sent me a photo of her coffee cup on a yacht on Sydney harbour. Ironically, I’m sitting in my tiny office writing stories about women’s happiness or lack of to pay for my kids’ education.
While I’d love to be sunning myself on the harbour I don’t feel more or less happy and I wouldn’t dare compare myself to my glamorous globe trotting girlfriend. She’s just come back from six years living in Berlin. She’s amazing – she and I often talk about who we are and what we thought our lives would hold, and I don’t think either story, the woman married with kids, or the childless woman alone, matches anything we ever envisaged. Sometimes we drink wine and laugh, sometimes one of us cries.
What is happiness anyway? Do my children give me happiness? I don’t recall having kids with this in mind. For me, having kids gave my life a meaning I hadn’t had before. The meaning is what caused me to experience a very deep sense of purpose that made me more focused on trying to sort myself out, both personally and professionally. In saying this I am in no way saying that childless women don’t feel this or do this. They come to this same destination from another street. It’s just that it’s a personal agenda, and I don’t believe, for any women, that our happiness can be quantified by our child bearing productivity, or lack of it, or our existence on or off the proverbial shelf.