Are you happy because you're married or are you married because you're happy? While the debate rages on, a new study makes the case that marriage may make you happier on average.

Marriage may not make people happier than when they were single but the practice may serve some purpose in stabilizing any emotional decline. In a new study, marriage was shown to help offset any decrease in happiness and may act more like a stabilizing agent for happiness.

The research was led by Stevie C.Y. Yap, PhD candidate, from the Michigan State University. Researchers collected data from an ongoing nationally representative British Household Panel Survey to determine the effects of personality traits on major life events such as marriage, childbirth, unemployment and widowhood.

The Big Five personality traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Researchers wanted to see if personality could predict positive or negative changes in life satisfaction after major life events.

Surprisingly enough, there was no consistent effect in the role personality traits played in reacting or adapting to major life events, according to researchers. While it may make sense that someone who was more conscientious or agreeable would handle unemployment better than someone who was neurotic, the researchers could not find consistent associations across the thousands of participants in the study.

For marriage, while there was a natural increase in happiness after the event, this honeymoon period did not last and happiness levels decreased over time. Researchers examined data from 1,366 individuals who were never married at the start of the study but married sometime during the study and stayed married for the duration of the study and a control group of individuals who never married.

For the individuals who got hitched, happiness increased but decreased over time to baseline levels. Happiness and life satisfaction were still higher in married individuals than the control group of never-married individuals according to researchers. Getting married helped offset any of the normal declines in happiness or life satisfaction and stabilized the overall level of happiness in married individuals. Alternatively, if the married individuals had never married, their level of life satisfaction would have gone through a greater decline because of the normal decreases in life satisfaction that are common in married and single individuals, note researchers.

While marriage may not make you happier, it could help create a balance in life which eases any decreases in life satisfaction. New cures may be discovered but understanding marriage may be something beyond the reach of any researcher.

The study will be published in the October edition of the Journal of Research in Personality.