It's better to be single, according to science
AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
- Being single has a handful of benefits, according to scientific research.
- Studies suggest that single people tend to have stronger social networks and develop more as individuals.
- They even tend to be more physically fit.
Give Tinder a break and take yourself on a date tonight.
Being single has a handful of benefits, according to scientific research. Alone time is one of them.
Not only are single people more likely to embrace solitude, they are also more likely to benefit from it, recent studies have suggested.
Bella DePaulo, a psychologist at the University of California Santa Barbara and an advocate of the single life, travels the nation to present these findings, which she said are too often dismissed by the larger psychology community. In a TEDx Talk she gave last spring, she called living single her "happily ever after."
Studies suggest she's onto something.
Single people tend to have stronger social networks
In 2015, social scientists Natalia Sarkisian and Naomi Gerstel set out to explore how ties to relatives, neighbors, and friends varied between single and married American adults. They found that singles were not only more likely to frequently reach out to their social networks, but also tended to provide and receive help from these people more than their married peers. Their results held steady even when they took into account factors like race, gender, and income levels.
Put simply, "being single increases the social connections of both women and men," Sarkisian and Gerstel wrote in their paper.
Fostering friendship is key to aging well and boosting happiness, as several recent studies have suggested. One of them, published in 2008 in the British Medical Journal, found that people who had regular contact with 10 or more others were significantly happier than those who did not; the same study also found that people with fewer friends were less happy overall.
Friends who are not your family may be especially important.
For a pair of studies involving nearly 280,000 people, assistant professor of psychology William Chopik found that friendships become increasingly important as we age. In older people, friendships were a stronger predictor of both health and happiness than relationships with family members were.
"Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being," Chopik said in a statement. "So it's smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest."
Singles also tend to be more fit
After surveying more than 13,000 men and women between ages 18 and 64, researchers found that those who were single and had never been married worked out more frequently each week compared with their married or divorced peers.
A 2015 study in the journal Social Science and Medicine compared the body mass indexes of about 4,500 people across nine European countries, and found that single men and women had slightly lower BMIs, on average, than men and women who were married. Overall, the married couples also weighed about five more pounds, on average, than the singles.
Single people may develop more individually and benefit more from alone time
Several studies have linked solitude to benefits that range from an increased sense of freedom to higher levels of creativity and intimacy. According to psychotherapist Amy Morin, alone time can help people be more productive as well.
"Time alone doesn't have to be lonely," Morin previously told Business Insider. "It could be the key to getting to know yourself better."
In a 2016 presentation at the American Psychological Association, DePaulo presented evidence that single people tended to have stronger feelings of self-determination and were more likely to experience psychological growth and development than their married counterparts. Still, DePaulo acknowledged that research on the psychological benefits of being single is lacking. After combing through 814 studies on singles, she discovered that most of them only used singles as a comparison group to learn about married people; not about singledom.
Another analysis of data from the 1998 National Survey of Families and Households suggested that the single people in the sample were more likely to experience personal growth than the married people, as measured by how they perceived the processes of learning and growth and the idea of new experiences.
In other words, while romantic relationships certainly have benefits, being single does too.
"The beliefs that single people are miserable, lonely ... and want nothing more than to become un-single are just myths," DePaulo said.
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