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Unwedded Bliss

by Matt Cherry

The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 18, Number 1.

Young Americans are happier today than ever before. Despite widespread claims that "Generation X" suffers more stress and insecurity than did their parents, new research shows that Americans under the age of 30 report higher levels of happiness than previous generations. And it seems that more permissive social and moral attitudes may deserve the credit for this increase in well-being.

For example, in the 1970s, 14% of American men and women under the age of 30 reported that they were "not too happy." By the 1990s, that number had fallen to 10%. By contrast the reported satisfaction levels of older Americans had hardly changed.

What has put the extra sparkle in the eyes of Generation X? The researchers, economists David G. Blanchflower of Dartmouth College and Andrew J. Oswald of the University of Warwick, report that the biggest jump in happiness came among unmarried people. They suggest, "It may be that young men and women have benefitted from society's recently increased tolerance of those living outside marriage."

Secular humanists have often been vilified for their support and tolerance for pre-marital sex, open and positive sex education, easy access to birth control, and cohabitation. The religious right and social conservatives have long claimed that stigma and discrimination against unChristian sexual behavior are needed for social well-being. This new survey seems to suggest otherwise. Could it be that the changes in social attitudes championed by secular humanists have boosted the happiness of an entire generation?

Matt Cherry is Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism.

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