In trying to track down convincing evidence for the claim that female happiness is in a state of secular decline, I stumbled into a chasm of self-reported happiness by marital status. The General Social Survey regularly asks respondents about how happy they are. The three potential responses are “very happy”, “pretty happy”, and “not too happy”.
The following graphs depict what I’ll call a happiness index, calculated by simply taking the “very happy” percentage and subtracting from it the “not too happy” percentage. For contemporary relevance, responses are from 2000 onward. To avoid racial confounding, only non-Hispanic whites are evaluated:
Correlation does not necessarily indicate causation, of course. And Tennyson’s assertion that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all deserves skepticism.
That said, this is prima facie evidence that the Western world’s increasingly anti-marital zeitgeist is making people miserable.
In anticipation of the objection that older people tend to be happier than younger people are, here are the results by marital status and age cohort:
Oh how our putative moral progress takes away what forever took to find.
GSS variables used: HAPPY, MARITAL(1)(3-4)(5), SEX, AGE(18-34)(35-49)(50-64)(65-89), RACECEN1(1), HISPANIC(1)