The Current

Don't pity the single ladies, author says — they're probably happier than you

A new book by author Paul Dolan suggests that while society expects them to be sad and lonely, single women who don't have children are actually a very happy population. Not everyone agrees with the idea, however.

Paul Dolan tells The Current that unmarried women with no kids are happier than many people think

In his book Happy Ever After, Paul Dolan argues that single, childless women are just as happy - often happier - than their married counterparts. (Leon Rafael/Shutterstock)
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Women who ride off into the sunset solo are more likely to get their happily ever after, according to one author.

"Compared to what people expect single women to feel — which is that they're lonely, sad and miserable — the evidence suggests something quite different," said Paul Dolan, a behavioural science professor and author of Happy Ever After: Escaping The Myth of The Perfect Life.

In Happy Ever After, Dolan compares the predominant societal narratives of what constitutes a happy life versus the oft-stigmatized and misunderstood alternatives.

"In many cases, single women are just as happy and often happier than their married counterparts," he told The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

Dolan drew his conclusions primarily from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which "measures the amount of time [American] people spend doing various activities, such as paid work, childcare, volunteering, and socializing."

The survey's Well-Being Module asks respondents to rate their happiness, level of stress and other emotional factors, then breaks it down along demographics such as men and women, married and unmarried, and those with or without children.

Dolan, who is married with children, emphasized that he's not discounting the validity of all the happy marriages out there. Rather, he explained, there are "large numbers of people" in unhappy marriages, and single people don't experience the same type of negative emotions associated with marital discord or separation.

"If you're looking at life's gamble of whether, as a woman, you should get married or not, it's not all obvious that you should," the behavioural science professor said.

Andrea Mrozek, program director of Cardus Family, rejects the thesis of Dolan's book. She says life with kids and marriage is the happiest thing a person can do.

A new book suggests that while society expects them to be sad and lonely, single women who don't have children are actually a very happy population. Andrea Mrozek disagrees; this is her take. 0:38

To discuss whether single people are happier than married people, Chattopadhyay spoke to:

  • Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science and head of the psychological and behavioural science department at the London School of Economics, and author of  Happy Ever After: Escaping The Myth of The Perfect Life.
  • Bella Depaulo, psychologist with the University of California, Santa Barbra, and author of several books about being single.
  • Andrea Mrozek,  program director of Cardus Family.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Émilie Quesnel. Produced by Howard Goldenthal and Julianne Hazlewood.

Clarifications

  • The sub-heading for this story has been changed to better reflect Paul Dolan's remarks on air.
    Jun 10, 2019 6:00 PM ET

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