For ages, it has been an unending debate as to who of the two—the singles or the married—is happier? Well, Kashmir has thrown up the latest surprise. In the restive Valley, singles are happier than married couples, researchers learned during a study.

The study, titled Mental Health Illness in the Valley: A Community Based Prevalence Study of Mental Health Issues in Kashmir, conducted by researchers at Government Medical College Srinagar reveals some interesting statistics about mental health among the married and singles who were randomly sampled between the age group of 18 and 65 years.

Statistical details reveal that happiness quotient is highest among singles. The psychiatric morbidity among singles is least at 8.7 per cent, whereas it is found to be 12.1 per cent among married.

“The study has shown that those who were either divorced or separated or widowed had a significantly higher morbidity (14.7%) than those who were married or never married. This is probably because of the reason that such situation increased vulnerability to stressors, and is also related to a relatively lower socio-economic status of such people. Further, those who were not married at the time of the study had significantly lower levels of mental illness,” the study read.

Prominent psychiatrist Dr Arshad Hussain, who led the team of researchers, opines that “modern marriages come with a lot of challenges and are increasingly being perceived as stressful relationships quite contrary what was taught.”

Dr Hussain mentions: “Previously in psychiatry, we were taught that marriages are a great support and the bonding of love promotes positive mental health. But what currently happens is women are forced to play multiple roles post marriage. They have to be homemakers, earning hands, mothers, daughters, daughters-in-laws all at one time without any support either institutional or domestic. This brings in a lot of stress and sometimes mental health problem as well.”

He believes that “marriage as an institution is itself under stress in traditional cultures adopting new ways of life without requisite support structures and change in patriarchy.”

Interestingly, the happiness quotient between singles and married has come as a “by-product” of a research actually linked to Kashmir turmoil and its impact on mental health.

The study states that “looking beyond the natural beauty that Kashmir is embraced with it envelops in its shade tremendous sufferings. From a young child to an elderly person, one can see the signs of high levels of stress inside them. At this age, when children are expected to enjoy stress-free lives they are seen role playing with guns, enacting dead bodies, discussing blood and revenge.

“Kashmir has been witness to different phases of violence and conflict, especially over the last two and half decades. As a result, tens of thousands lost life directly to conflict and thousands got disappeared and much more faced torture and injuries. The freedom of people was curbed with its implications on the people especially women.”

The study goes on to add that, “In brief, the conflict has resulted into many structural constraints and has created many barriers that shape the access of people to employment, livelihood and essential services, thereby, affecting people directly as well as indirectly.”

This study was undertaken by the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Kashmir, and was commissioned by ActionAid Association with the support of Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection.