Are happy people more likely to choose committed relationships or do committed relationships make people happy?


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This study examined the links among relationship status, relationship happiness, and a latent measure of subjective well-being. Using the study of Marital Instability over the Life Course, we found that married individuals reported the highest level of subjective well-being, followed (in order) by individuals in cohabiting relationships, steady dating relationships, casual dating relationships, and individuals who dated infrequently or not at all. Individuals in happy relationships reported a higher level of subjective well-being than did individuals in unhappy relationships, irrespective of relationship status. Even with relationship happiness controlled, however, relationship status was associated with subjective well-being. A longitudinal analysis suggested that shifting into more committed relationships was followed by improvements in subjective well-being. Little support was found for the assumption that people with a high level of well-being select themselves into more committed relationships.

Source: “Consequences of relationship status and quality for subjective well-being” from Journal of Social and Personal Relationships

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