Young women might fantasize about their wedding day for years, but a new study found that marriage won’t make them dramatically happier.
"It appears that young people, especially women, get the same emotional boost from moving in together as they do from going directly to marriage," said study co-author Sara Mernitz, a doctoral student in human sciences at The Ohio State University. "There's no additional boost from getting married."
The study, which used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, included 8,700 people born between 1980-84 — the first four years of the Millennial generation — who were interviewed every other year from 2000 to 2010.
Participants were asked about their relationship status as well as five questions to assess their levels of emotional distress at each interview. On a scale of 1 (all of the time) to 4 (none of the time), they reported how often in the past month they had felt sadness, depression and other symptoms.
The scientists found that single young women experienced a similar decline in emotional distress whether they moved in with a romantic partner or went straight to marriage.
Men, however, experienced a drop in emotional distress only when they got married first, not when they moved in with a romantic partner. For young adults who moved on from that first relationship, both men and women received similar emotional boosts whether they moved in with their second partner or married them.
Claire Kamp Dush, study co-author and associate professor of human sciences at Ohio State, said the results may highlight the fact that cohabiting today does not carry the same stigma as in previous generations. An estimated two-thirds of couples today live together before they get married.
"At one time marriage may have been seen as the only way for young couples to get the social support and companionship that is important for emotional health," Kamp Dush said. "It's not that way anymore. We're finding that marriage isn't necessary to reap the benefits of living together, at least when it comes to emotional health."
— by Elodie Noel