The US is battling an epidemic of sad, anxious young women.

Despite the surge in our opportunities and freedoms over the past 50 years, it appears we are more depressed than ever.

Studies suggest that around a third of all adult women suffer some sort of mental health problem, compared to a fifth of men.

This is particularly apparent in the 18 to 25 age group, 41 percent of which are said to suffer anxiety, according to Harvard University research.

Over the last six years, the amount of women reporting depression increased 10 percent, from 26.2 percent in 2017 to 36.7 percent in 2023, according to a Gallup poll of over 5000 US adults.  

With 20 years under my belt as a sociologist, studying the lifestyle patterns of Americans as well as their fulfillment over time, I believe I have stumbled on one possible explanation for this sea of sadness.

It might appear a controversial take: too few women are getting married. 

Only 28 in 1000 women were married in the US in 2021, compared to 76 in 1000 in 1965, research from BowlingUnive

Only 28 in 1000 women were married in the US in 2021, compared to 76 in 1000 in 1965, research from BowlingUnive

Only 28 in 1000 women were married in the US in 2021, compared to 76 in 1000 in 1965, research from Bowling Green University shows

Only 47 percent of women ages 18 to 55 were married in the US in 2022, compared to 72 percent in 1970, according to my analysis of the U.S. census data. Research from Bowling Green State University shows marriage rates reached an all time low in 2021 in the United States, with only 28 out of every 1000 married women getting married each year in the country, down from 76 in the 1970s.

There are a myriad of reasons for this – more career focus, less disposable income and a change in societal norms are just a few.  

But the uncomfortable truth is women who aren’t married are worse off, health-wise, compared to their married counterparts. 

Studies have shown that married women have a lower risk of developing heart disease, are less likely to die from heart disease and have longer lifespans in general than non-married women. 

One study tracking a sample of over 11,000 nurses found that married women are 35 percent less likely to die early than those who did not marry. 

The mental health benefits of marriage and having a family of your own have also been well proven in scientific studies.

Dr Wendy Wang, from the Institute for Family Studies

Dr Wendy Wang, from the Institute for Family Studies

Dr Wendy Wang, from the Institute for Family Studies

Some 40 percent of married mothers – both heterosexual and lesbian women – aged under 55 reported that they were ‘very happy’ with their lives, compared with 22 percent of single, childfree women and 25 percent of married childfree women, according to 2022 General Social Survey. Only 13 percent of divorced women say they’ve reached this level of happiness.

It is true, however, that more than one in three couples will get divorced. However, it’s worth saying that many divorced couples remarry – up to 64 percent – and studies show this improves self-reported happiness.

Those who often find themselves irritated by their partner’s infuriating habits may find this surprising. 

But it’s true:  Studies have consistently shown that strong social relationships are key to happiness. And research has also shown that, although it may sound stereotypical, spouses provide a stronger bond than any other relationship. 

Admittedly, taking care of children is an exhausting job. But extensive research has shown that the rewards outweigh the negatives. Married women also have the advantage of working alongside a devoted partner to share the tough job.

Despite the scientific data, social media is doing its part to malign marriage. 

On TikTok, videos that jokingly depict marriage as a fast route to domestic chores like washing dishes, caring for a newborn baby, and cleaning the house, go viral. 

The graph shows that one-quarter of US 40-year-old have never been married

The graph shows that one-quarter of US 40-year-old have never been married

The graph shows that one-quarter of US 40-year-old have never been married 

Then there’s the glamorization of childfree life, much of which is a result of the social media trend of DINKS (which stands for ‘dual income no kids’).  

DINK couples consistently go viral online, showcasing their luxurious and fun-filled lives spent travelling the world and spending surplus cash that would, presumably, otherwise go on diapers. 

These sentiments are being absorbed nationally. Only 24 percent of women under 30 believe that women who get married and have kids live fuller and happier lives than those who don’t, according to a 2023 poll.

Yes, it’s true that men benefit more from marriage than women do when it comes to the division of household labor. And it has been shown that women, on average, do more emotional labor and spend more time on chores and childcare than their male partners.

But the gap in those measurements has been flattening somewhat, as my research from the Institute for Family studies (IFS) has shown.

My studies prove that dads are more involved in their children’s lives than ever before. Dads’ child are time has increased while mothers’ child care time has remained stable over the past two decades. 

American fathers now spend an average of nearly eight hours per week taking care of their children at home, while mothers’ childcare time is around 13. 

As far as I am concerned, household work is work – and if you add up the number of hours mothers and fathers spend working overall, it’s pretty much the same, on average. 

In 2021-2022, work averaged 57 hours per week for both married fathers and mothers with children under age 18. 

Also, studies that show married men benefit more from marriage are usually  comparing married men to single men, not married men to married women.

When the comparison group is changed, the happiness level for married men and women is quite similar. Around 37 percent of married women under 55 and younger say they are ‘very happy’ as do 34 percent of married men, according to the IFS 2022 General Social Survey.

Likewise, 40 percent of married mothers report being very happy with their lives, as are 35 percent of married fathers. 

Actress Anne Hathaway has promoted the benefits of marriage on a national scale

Actress Anne Hathaway has promoted the benefits of marriage on a national scale

Actress Anne Hathaway has promoted the benefits of marriage on a national scale

In 2017, comments made by Hollywood star Anne Hathaway about her marriage to actor and producer Adam Shulman were heavily criticized on social media. 

She told ELLE: ‘I think the accepted narrative now is that we, as women, don’t need anybody. But I need my husband. His unique and specific love has changed me.’

The idea that a woman could need a man did not sit well with the Gen Z feminists on Instagram, who passionately argued that Hathaway was ‘letting the side down’ by insinuating that women cannot be truly happy without a male partner.

But the truth is, sharing your life with another person does have unique benefits for your emotional health. 

Perhaps this is because married people are known to be markedly less lonely than their peers.

The CDC have identified loneliness as a contributor to a host of diseases- from dementia to stroke- as well as earlier death.

Living in social isolation could be as bad for your health as nearly a pack of cigarettes daily

Living in social isolation could be as bad for your health as nearly a pack of cigarettes daily

Living in social isolation could be as bad for your health as nearly a pack of cigarettes daily 

You might say it is possible to beat loneliness with a long-term partner, or even a good friend.  

But there is a sense of anxiety-busting stability you get with marriage that is not the case for other long-term relationships. It’s a controversial point, but much of this lies in the financial benefits.

Padding your income with a partner’s contribution allows you to lead a much more comfortable life.

In 2022, the median family income for married women ages 18-55 was $114,000, but only $54,000 for single, never-married women according to my analysis of American Community data. 

Actress Lucy Liu chose to have her son as a single mother by surrogate in 2015. 'I just pulled the trigger. I can think myself out of something easily; if I think too much I won¿t do it,' she said.

Actress Lucy Liu chose to have her son as a single mother by surrogate in 2015. 'I just pulled the trigger. I can think myself out of something easily; if I think too much I won¿t do it,' she said.

Actress Lucy Liu chose to have her son as a single mother by surrogate in 2015. ‘I just pulled the trigger. I can think myself out of something easily; if I think too much I won’t do it,’ she said. 

Married women also have more than 10 times the assets than single, never-married women by the time they are in their 50s, which can help them close in on retirement.  

Marriage is not a cure-it-all magic wand, but the data tell us that the average American woman who is married with children is markedly less lonely and living a more meaningful and joyful life. 

So, to millions of young women who are at the start of adulthood: Do not let your fears of failing in love and family, or a slavish devotion to career, hold you back. 

Do not allow popular misconceptions to keep you from enjoying the benefits of marriage and motherhood.

 Prioritize relationships in your twenties, cultivate friendships with other marriage-minded young adults, be open to a relationship that could lead to marriage, and embrace marriage and parenthood when the time comes.

Source: Mail Online

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