Volume 96, Issue 93
Wednesday, March 26, 2003

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Love and marriage: Permanent happiness not included

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff


Marriage has no permanent effect on an individual's happiness, according to a recently released study. It is neither a lifetime sentence of incessant torture reminiscent of the fires of hell nor a trip down euphoria lane.

Richard E. Lucas, professor of psychology at Michigan State University, conducted a 15-year study, drawing from a sample of 24,000 men and women. His research documented people from long before to long after they were married, and measured their satisfaction.

"The one thing we know from many different studies is that married people are happier than unmarried people. We assume it's marriage that makes people happier, but the other possibility is that [people getting married] are just naturally happier in the first place," Lucas said.

James Schmeiser, a King's College professor of philosophy and religious studies, said prior studies have drawn similar conclusions. "In general, married people are healthier, live longer and are happier [than unmarried people]," he noted.

Lucas reported a general increase in his subjects' satisfaction and base level of happiness around the time of their marriages, but, within two years of tying the knot, most had returned to their original level of personal satisfaction.

Schmeiser noted the importance of the early years of marriage. "The first couple of years, couples are going to meet some significant difficulties. How they get through these difficulties will be an indicator of [future] happiness," he said, adding the high rate of divorce in the first couple of years of marriage is a clear indicator.

However, there are some potential flaws in the study, Schmeiser said. For example, age levels or gender must always be considered. "I wouldn't dare make any kind of global statement, [but] the level of happiness is higher in men as they get older; women respond differently," he said.

So, what does this mean to students around campus?

"I think you can't get married to be happy, but if you're happy and you get married, it should sustain itself," said Caitlin Dacey, a second-year biology student.

Dayna Pogue, a second-year geophysics student, was skeptical of the study's conclusions. "If you take into consideration people getting married earlier in life, like 20 to 25, they haven't had as much experience. If they get married later in life, when they've had a chance to mature more, [the marriage] might work out better," she said.

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