By Walter E. Jacobson, MD
There are a number of studies addressing the issue of whether couples are happier and healthier than single people. The impression I got from reviewing the data is that couples live longer and have a better quality of life in terms of their health issues and their coping strategies.
Being in a loving, committed relationship of trust and intimacy, where there is nurturing and support, acceptance and tolerance, communication and cooperation, provides people with the capacity to better cope with the tensions and difficulties of daily life, as well as the trials and tribulations of growing older, becoming more frail, losing autonomy and becoming more dependent on others.
This is a generalization, of course. If the two people in a couple are full of resentment and distrust, if they are abusive and unsupportive of each other, then their health, stress-reduction capacities and longevity go right out the window. Equally so, if single people have strong bonds with others, which provide them with the emotional equivalent of being in a monogamous relationship, their health, stress-reduction capacities and longevity will approach and mirror those of couples.
Regarding the issue of happiness, the studies suggest that couples are a bit happier than single people, but not by much. It appears that most people, after they get married, experience an initial bump up in terms of their sense of happiness but then their happiness quotient tends to return to their pre-marriage levels, indicating that happiness really is an “inside job” and that, for the most part, other people can’t make us happy.
Certainly, there are people in monogamous relationships who are remarkably miserable with the partner they’ve chosen to be with and stay with. Equally so, there are single people who don’t do well living alone and deeply yearn for companionship.