Marital Status and Social Well-Being: Are the Married Always Better Off?
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The positive link between marriage and physical and psychological well-being is well established, but whether marriage is associated with social well-being is not. Using nationally representative data from the MIDUS study (N = 3,032), the present study examines the degree to which there are marital status differences in perceived social well-being, to what extent marital histories affect perceived social well-being, and the degree to which findings vary between social well-being and psychological well-being outcomes. We find that married persons do not have a decisive social well-being advantage over unmarried persons. However, married persons do have a significant social well-being advantage over non-married cohabitors. Additionally, marital history matters little to the perceived social well-being of our respondents. Comparisons with psychological well-being measures indicate substantial differences in the effect of marital status on individual-level well-being.
KeywordsMarriage Marital status Well-being Health Family Social well-being Psychological well-being Cohabitation Divorce
A prior version of this paper was presented at the 2002 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. Special thanks participants of the 1999 & 2000 Midlife in the United States summer workshop for their ideas. The MIDUS study was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development (MIDMAC).
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