A new Gallup survey has found that, over more than a decade, one variable has consistently predicted whether people described themselves as “thriving”: marriage. Married couples are more likely to be happy today, anticipate future happiness, and have a “strong and loving” relationship with their children than cohabiting partners.

Gallup classified respondents into one of three groups—“thriving,” “struggling,” or “suffering”—based on how they rated their home lives. Surveying data over 14 years, Gallup found that married couples consistently rated their current lives, and their likelihood of future happiness, better than those who lived together outside marriage or had a committed relationship without living together. The happiness differential ran into double digits.

“Within the U.S., it is clear that married adults rate their lives more highly than others and have done so for the past 15 years,” the survey, released last Friday, concluded. “From 2009 to 2023, married adults aged 25 to 50 were more likely to be thriving—by double-digit margins—than adults who have never married. The 16-percentage-point gap between married adults (61%) and those who have never married (45%) in 2023 is within the range of 10 to 24 points recorded since 2009.”

Marriage’s emotional bonus held true “for men and women across all major racial/ethnic groups” and “is not explained by other demographic characteristics—such as age, race/ethnicity or education.”

Gallup researchers found wedded couples less prone to communication breakdowns in their relationships. Married couples were half as likely (26%) to say they experienced two or more days in the last month where they or their partner felt so angry they could not speak to each other than those living together (46%) or dating exclusive (41%). Interestingly, living together outside marriage made people 12% more likely to argue than dating exclusively while living separately.

Lawfully wedded husbands and wives also experienced greater closeness with their children: 83% of married couples with children between the ages of three and 19 say they have a “strong and loving” relationship with their kids, compared with 69% in a domestic partnership, and 61% in a “non-domestic exclusive relationship.”

Marriage is also linked to another predictor of happiness: having children. “Marriage also increases the likelihood of having children and is associated with better relationships with those children,” write Gallup researchers, pointing to the group’s 2023 Familial and Adolescent Health Survey.

Married parents, and even divorced parents, say they have more affectionate relationships with their own children than those who were never married, the report discovered, in addition to finding that “married parents are significantly less likely than divorced or never-married parents to report that their child is frequently out of control.”

“Finally, ideologically conservative parents report higher-quality and more harmonious relationships with their children compared with liberal or moderate parents,” Gallup’s team noted.

The new Gallup research report speculates the likelihood of entering a permanent, lifelong, and (in Christianity) unbreakable union must “encourage greater partner selection, as well as greater investments and effort to develop and maintain a high-quality relationship.”

Although married people report higher levels of happiness regardless of their religious status, “[m]arried people are also more likely to practice a religion, and religious practice is also positively correlated with subjective wellbeing.”

Gallup’s research reinforces numerous other studies showing married people, parents, and Christians who actively practice their faith enjoy greater happiness, contentment, and quality of life than unmarried couples, agnostics, atheists, and “Nones”:

  • “Americans who have never married, are not religious, and have lower levels of formal education feel their lives have meaning less often than other Americans do,” according to the November 2023 American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life. “Overall, religious Americans tend to believe their life is meaningful more often than do those who are not religious.”
  • Americans who believe in God and value marriage are more likely to be “very happy” than non-believers and single people, according to a Wall Street Journal-NORC poll taken last March.
  • Parents “with two children had a risk of suicide 70% less than their childless peers,” wrote Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and a fellow at the Institute of Family Studies, summarizing a Scandinavian study.
  • Americans who attended religious services regularly were 44% more likely to say they were “very happy” than those who never or rarely attended, found a 2019 Pew Research Center study.
  • Christians who read the Bible regularly rated a higher score on the Human Flourishing Index than non-practicing Christians or the religiously unaffiliated, found a American Bible Society report last June. Active Christians and non-Christians diverged the most when it came to whether they felt their lives had “meaning & purpose.”
  • A Harvard study found childhood religious activities, such as prayer, paid great dividends later in life, even if the children subsequently left the faith. “[P]eople who attended weekly religious services or practiced daily prayer or meditation in their youth reported greater life satisfaction and positivity in their 20s—and were less likely to subsequently have depressive symptoms, smoke, use illicit drugs, or have a sexually transmitted infection—than people raised with less regular spiritual habits,” according to a summary of a 2018 study conducted by researchers from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
  • The “Handbook of Religion and Health” has “reviewed 326 articles on the relationship between health and measures of “religiosity and subjective well-being, happiness, or life satisfaction,” finding that 79% of those studies reported that religious people were happier, while only 1% reported that they were less happy (the rest found no or mixed findings),” reported Stephen Cranney, a nonresident fellow at Baylor University’s Institute for the Studies of Religion who teaches at The Catholic University of America. 

Despite these robust findings, Americans are less likely to believe marriage and an active Christian life make people happy.

“The General Social Survey documented a decline between 1988 and 2012 in the percentage of U.S. adults who agreed that married people are generally happier than unmarried people,” Gallup notes in Friday’s survey.

Similarly, a Pew Research Center poll last September found 71% of Americans say a fulfilling job makes for a good life, while only 23% say being married (and 26% say having children) are “extremely important in order for people to live a fulfilling life.”

Instead, culture celebrates the LGBTQ movement, despite the well-attested links between transgenderism/same-sex sexual behavior and poor mental health outcomes:

  • “Female students, LGBQ+ students, and students who had any same-sex partners were more likely than their peers to experience poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors,” said a February 2023 report from the Biden administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teenagers who identified as LGBTQ were twice as likely to report “poor mental health” as those who identified as heterosexual, three times as likely to have “seriously considered attempting suicide” or “made a suicide plan,” and 366.6% more likely to have attempted suicide, the CDC found.
  • “A higher prevalence of substance use and mental health issues has been well-documented among people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (also referred to as sexual minorities) than among those who identify as heterosexual or straight,” noted a 2023 report from the Biden administration’s U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Women who have sex with members of both sexes (bisexuals) were six times as likely to have attempted suicide within the last year as women who identify as straight, and three times as likely to abuse opioid drugs. Bisexual men were three times as likely to have had a serious mental illness in the last year, SAMHSA found.
  • Two-thirds (67%) of Americans who identify as bisexual, and half (48%) of self-identified gays, said they felt “uncertain about who they were supposed to be” in the last year, as compared to about 1 out of 4 (29%) of those who identify as straight, the American Enterprise Institute’s survey found.

Originally published by The Washington Stand