Women who are not married and do not have children are among the happiest people around, according to a prominent psychologist.
Single, childless women are also likely to be healthier and live longer than their peers bogged down by domestic responsibilities, professor Paul Dolan told his audience at the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, Wales.
Dolan, an expert in behavioural science from the London School of Economics and the author of Happy Ever After, said the latest data indicated that our traditional measures of social success like marriage and motherhood do not necessarily correspond with happiness levels.
While men typically "calm down" once they are married, taking fewer personal risks and earning more money at work, the same is not true for women.
The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children.
I am going to do a massive disservice to [the] academic science and just say: if you are a man, you should probably get married; if you are a woman, don't bother.
Professor Dolan did say that the social stigma attached to remaining single (as battled against so fearlessly by Bridget Jones) could have a knock-on effect in certain cases and ultimately leave some feeling unhappy.
You see a single woman of 40, who has never had children – ‘Bless, that’s a shame, isn’t it? Maybe one day you’ll meet the right guy and that’ll change.’
No, maybe she’ll meet the wrong guy and that’ll change. Maybe she’ll meet a guy who makes her less happy and healthy, and die sooner.
He was also amazingly frank about the experience of many parents:
It would be categorically awful if anything happened to them, but the experiences we have with children are largely miserable.
...and about marriage in general:
Married people are happier than other population subgroups, but only when their spouse is in the room when they are asked how happy they are. When the spouse is not present: f***ing miserable.
This is not the first time the psychological benefits of singledom for women have been spotlighted recently.
A recent Twitter thread by historian Dr Bob Nicholson picked through a copy of Tit-Bits magazine from 1889 to offer some illuminating insights into the experiences of single women in the 19th century.
The magazine tasked its Victorian readership with answering the question: "Why am I a spinster?"
Their responses - to borrow a well-worn indy100 phrase - were perfect.