Conventional wisdom has it that the older you are when you get married, the lower your chances for divorce.

London - Marriage counts for as much as a good salary in making us happy, according to research.

A study found there is a happiness gap between the well-off and the poor which is similar in size to the one between married and unmarried people.

The findings came in the latest stage of a project to measure the happiness and wellbeing of Britain, carried out by the country’s Office for National Statistics.

The report compared income and spending levels to the public’s satisfaction with life, whether people think life is worthwhile, how happy people feel, and whether they are anxious. The results showed that in order to get the same advantages from money as being married, an individual would have to advance from the bottom fifth of the income table, earning around £16,000 (around R284 000), into the top fifth, where salaries are around £57,000 (around R1m).

Wellbeing calculations showed that becoming one of the country’s top earners meant a rise of 0.56 points on a life satisfaction scale running from one to ten.

‘This is roughly comparable to the difference in life satisfaction between individuals in married couples and those who are single, when other factors are taken into account,’ the report said.

But simply getting a pay rise did not have as great an effect on happiness as being married. The report said that someone who doubles their income can expect to go up only 0.17 points on the scale.

The ONS added: ‘The scale of this difference is considerably smaller than that between employees and the unemployed, or that between people who are married and those who are widowed.’

Professionals in higher income groups were also found to be more likely to think their lives were worthwhile, more likely to say they were happy, and less likely to be anxious than those at the bottom of the pay scale. However, the differences were less marked when individuals were asked about how satisfied they were with their lives.

Launched by David Cameron in a bid to find a new way of measuring the country’s progress, the programme has consistently linked marriage and happiness since its results started to be published more than two years ago.

The Government has pledged to support marriage with tax breaks for some couples, which will come into force from April next year. - Daily Mail