According to a new study in the February issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, marriage offers little benefit over couples who just live together in terms of health, self-esteem, and psychological well-being. The study researcher, Kelly Musick says “It’s the relationship itself, rather than its official status, that’s key to its benefits.”
The findings seem to suggest that living together may even be better than putting a ring on it, since cohabitating participants were found to be happier and possess greater self-esteem than their married counterparts.
Researchers followed 2,737 single ladies and gents over six years to see what happened when they began a romantic relationship or got hitched. Participants rated their overall health and happiness and were also asked questions to assess their self-esteem, depression and the strength of their ties to friends and family. Over the study period, close to 900 participants married or began living with a romantic partner.
The results? Those who got married or started living with a partner experienced higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depression than those who remained single—but only at the start. Those advantages faded with time.
Of course, the study doesn’t say that marriage will make one unhappy by any means, but it’s saying what most of us already know: that though the idea and purpose of marriage is changing, it’s not a game changer.