Marital bliss is easy to find, according to a new study: just marry your best friend. Two economists pored over surveys about well-being and found that in most places, married people are happier—even when controlling for their happiness-level before marriage, the New York Times reports. (Where it's not true: sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.) What's more, those who consider their spouse their best friend are roughly twice as satisfied. Even people who live together without marriage derive about 75% of that benefit, the Huffington Post reports. "We do think it's more about that social relationship than the legal status," says a study co-author. "Marriage, in a sense, is a super friendship."
Marital friendship is most beneficial during mid-life, when family and career dole out the worst stress: "One hypothesis ... is that the social support provided by a spouse helps ease the stresses of middle age," the Wall Street Journal quotes the authors as saying. Women apparently derive more happiness than men from marrying their best friend, but are less likely to consider a spouse their best friend. In one reaction to the study, an author who advocates for the single life says "the people who got married chose to marry" and perhaps the researchers overlooked "people like me who are single at heart." But the study does compare the never-married to those who at least tried marriage, HuffPo notes, and found the latter "happier on average." (Another study finds that marital problems don't go away.)