We are told that some life events make us happier and others make us sadder. The culture claims that marriage leads to a more satisfying life, while divorce leaves us alone and unhappy.
Of course, it is true for many people that marriage is a long, happy phase of their lives. Other marriages are less successful, and end in divorce, which can be depressing, especially if one of the spouses did not want it.
But do the life events that are supposed to elate or knock us down actually do so? An international survey discussed by The Washington Post contains some surprises.
The survey, which was conducted in Germany, began following slightly more than 2,000 adults before they had children, and followed them for at least two years after the birth of their first child. Researchers asked the subjects to rate their level of happiness from zero to 10, with 10 being “completely satisfied” and zero meaning “completely dissatisfied.” The purpose was to track how their satisfaction with life changed over time.
It should not be a surprise that certain things, like divorce, unemployment or the death of a partner, led to a significant reduction in happiness level. But worse than all of these things was — believe it or not — having a child. On average, happiness ratings dropped 1.4 units after the birth of a first child, more than any of those events more commonly considered to be depressing.
From our perspective, it is worth remembering that going through divorce can be a difficult time, but that it does not last forever. Getting out of a bad marriage can be rewarding, and leave you ready to start the next chapter of your life.