The literature on marital status and happiness has neglected comparative analysis, cohabitation, and gender-specific analysis. It is not clear if the married-happiness relationship is consistent across nations, if it is stronger than a cohabitation-happiness link, and if it applies to both genders. We address these issues using data from 17 national surveys. A multiple regression analysis determined that the relationship between marital status and happiness holds in 16 of the 17 nations and the strength of the association does not vary significantly in 14 of the 17 nations. Being married was 3.4 times more closely tied to the variance in happiness than was cohabitation, and marriage increases happiness equally among men and women. Marriage may affect happiness through two intervening processes: the promotion of financial satisfaction and the improvement of health. These intervening processes did not replicate for cohabitants.
Stack, S., &Eshleman, J. R. (1998). Marital status and happiness: A 17-nation study. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 527-536.