Married Men are Happier. So Why is Marriage Declining?
If marriage is so beneficial, why are fewer people than ever getting married?
Marriage makes for happy men, according to a British study. Two thousand men answered questions on “the state of masculinity in 2017,” The Telegraph reported Monday.
The survey offers “important insights into what men need to live their lives in a positive way,” Dr. John Barry, research leader said. Barry works at University College London (UCL), which conducted the study. Harry’s, an American shaving company, commissioned it.
Fifty-six percent of men ranked marriage above love and even children in importance. Ninety percent ranked romance as “important” or “very important.” Just 78 percent said the same of their work. A majority ranked marriage as more important than personal growth.
The study also found that men are likely to be thinking of marriage when they enter into a relationship. As The Telegraph notes, this dispels “the misconception that long-term monogamous relationships are no longer desirable in an age of Tinder and high divorce rates.”
More Wealth, Better Sex, Longer Life
While conducted in Great Britain, the study confirms other recent research regarding men and marriage. In February the Institute for Family Studies published a brief “debunking the ball and chain myth.” Popular culture maintains that marriage results in less money, sex and happiness for men. But that’s not true, the brief argues.
“Being a good husband isn’t always easy,” brief authors W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger acknowledge. They note there are sacrifices necessary for men in marriage. “But it turns out that these sacrifices pay for themselves and more.”
“Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than otherwise comparable single men,” Wilcox and Wolfinger write. They cite research showing this persists across the U.S. and other developed nations. The increase in income isn’t only because men who make more money are more likely to marry. “The most sophisticated recent research suggests that marriage itself increases the earning power of men on the order of 10 to 24 percent,” the brief states.
Married men are also more sexually satisfied than single or cohabiting men, the brief reveals. Pop culture parrots the assumption that married men have sex less often and less enjoyably, but “the research is indisputable.”
Finally, married men are happier and healthier overall than unmarried men, the brief concludes. They live almost 10 years longer (including men with cancer). They are even likely to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Still, the ball and chain myth is “ubiquitous in popular culture,” according to the brief. “This has undoubtedly had adverse consequences for men’s aspirations to marriage.”
For Some Men, Finding Marriage is a Struggle
Men aren’t the only ones better off in marriage. Research reveals that adults, children and ultimately communities fare better when stable families headed by married parents prevail. Both men and women are likely to be healthier and happier. Kids are more likely to graduate from high school, avoid teen pregnancy and stay out of jail when their parents are married.
But marriage is declining in developed nations. Sociologist Paula England wrote about this “retreat from marriage” Wednesday for the Institute for Family Studies blog. She notes that between 1970 and 2015, the number of married 25- to 34-year-olds declined by half.
Millennials are delaying marriage the most. TIME reported in 2014 that 25 percent of millennials will never get married. Gallup reported in 2016 that millennials are getting married later than Gen Xers and baby boomers.
England explores why this is, particularly for men. She refers to the new book Cheap Sex by Mark Regnerus, published in September. Regnerus contends that the birth control pill, pornography and dating apps have made men less likely to marry. Thanks to these things, marriage is no longer a requirement for sex.
England agrees that this is part of the reason for the marriage decline. But she argues it’s more complicated. She looks at the decline of men in the labor force — especially of uneducated men.
“Only 83% of those with a high school degree or less were in the labor force by 2014,” she writes. While marriage among college-educated men is delayed, it’s still common. Men with less education, and therefore unstable or less lucrative employment, are more likely to never marry or get divorced.
Unemployment makes it tough for a man to find a wife. Today, society is more accepting of both husband and wife working than in eras past. But people still don’t like to see a husband without work, England notes. As TIME reported in 2014, “the quality most women want in a husband, somewhat unromantically, is a secure job.”
Judging from the research, marriage is great boost for men who manage it. But is it becoming hard to attain for those who might benefit from it the most?