Despite a slew of data suggesting that more millennials are willfully choosing not to get married, it seems like the opposite is actually the case. All it takes is one scroll through Facebook to see that millennials aren't so opposed to marriage as they're often thought to be. In fact, most of them appear to be getting married nowadays, with less and less continuing to fly solo.
Those of the latter group are often subject to a class of misguided generalizations about being single, with the main one being that the single life can only lead to depression and a lack of fulfillment. There seems to be this prevailing assumption that single people are more depressed than those who are coupled, and that getting into a romantic relationship with someone is the easy fix. Even more than this, marriage is often seen as a mentally transformative experience that would only be beneficial to one's health.
However, much of the research conducted on marital relations tends to over-exaggerate the claims about depression or completely miss the mark altogether. To prove this point, Dr. Bella DePaulo of Psychology Today examined two recent studies that reveal alternate perspectives on the supposed link between marriage and depression.
The first study analyzed the patterns of depression in both single and coupled individuals overtime. Researchers use data from the National Survey of Families and Households, as well as a modelling approach that controlled for fixed differences between individuals by relating union transitions to changes in well-being.
They found that the majority of people who got married or began cohabiting were initially less depressed, but after a period of three years, they didn't become any less depressed than they were when they were single. Any differences in depression between married and single people were tied to variations in interpersonal connectivity - singles were found to be more interpersonally connected with friends and family (which contributes to a decrease in depression), whereas couples tended to turn inward (which contributes to an increase in depression).
The second study compared the depression levels of singles who were completely solo, singles who were dating, cohabitants, and married people. Researchers conjectured that married people would be the least depressed, followed by the cohabitants, then the single daters, then finally, the solo singles.
To their surprise, the results of the study did not show this trend at all. For women, there were hardly any differences in the depression levels between married, cohabiting, dating and solo individuals (except for the fact that women who were dating were actually more stressed than women who were solo). For men, cohabitants were less depressed than dating or solo men, but the married men were more depressed compared to all other categories.
In both studies, there was no consistent evidence found to support the idea that people in romantic relationships would be less depressed than singles. I think the popular notion that single life causes depression stems from the naive assumption that singles don't have anybody in their lives.
But the reality is that most singles do have people who are important to them, and their reliance on these is sufficient enough to maintain a happy and healthy life. In that sense, having friends and family can be just as powerful as having a partner.