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Research by a behavioural scientist suggests that unmarried and childless women are the happiest population subgroup.

Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, spoke at the Hay Festival on May 25th about some of the topics covered in his new book, “Happy Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life”.

The took explored how traditional symbols of success do no necessarily correlate with high happiness levels.  These include higher education, marriage and children.

Dolan highlighted how his research suggests that unmarried women are happier than their married counterparts.  He also said that they live longer and have better health.

Married people do come out as the happiest sub-group, but only when their partner is in the room during the interview; their recorded happiness levels drop significantly when the partner is not present.

Men, however, do appear to benefit from marriage.  Dolan said, “you take more risks, you earn more money and you live a little longer.  She, on the other hand, has to put up with that, and she dies sooner than if she never married.”

He did acknowledge that although not having children appears to have a positive impact on women’s well-being, the stigma around this may lead to unhappiness.  He also noted that it is difficult to have conversations about how some individuals struggle with parenthood.

Human, Political and Social Sciences applicants might consider the benefits and drawbacks of the traditional family model for individuals and society.  Those interested in Psychology might reflect on the possible causes for this difference in happiness levels.

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