Single People May Be More Fulfilled Than Married People

Single woman happily eating aloneAccording to a new study, single people may lead richer lives and may be more self-sufficient and fulfilled than their married counterparts. The study was presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2014 that there were more than 124.6 million unmarried people older than age 16—the highest ever number of single people living in the United States. Conventional wisdom generally depicts single people as lonely and married people as fulfilled, but this study, which reviewed 814 previous studies involving single people, challenges that notion.

Is the Single Life a Happier Life?

For the study, researcher Bella DePaulo, PhD, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, searched for studies of people who had never been married. She then looked at overall measures of well-being in participants.

The results suggest many single people are happy and psychologically well-adjusted, and they may fare better than their married counterparts on a number of well-being measures. For example, single people tend to remain more strongly connected to parents, friends, and neighbors than do married people. They also more highly value meaningful work. Single people ranked higher on measures of self-sufficiency than married people, and that self-sufficiency was correlated with better mental health. For married people, the reverse was true. The more self-sufficient a married person was, the worse their psychological health was.

DePaulo believes society needs to embrace singlehood, and that many of the purported benefits of marriage may have little to do with companionship or romantic love. Marriage comes with many cultural and financial benefits, so DePaulo says the fact that singles can thrive even without these benefits points to the value of a single life.

Debating the Value of Marriage

Research into the relative benefits of marriage is ongoing and often conflicting. An array of research suggests marriage can benefit both men and women. Some research points to greater benefits of marriage for men than for women, and a few studies suggest marriage may even be bad for some people, especially when the marriage is troubled.

A 2014 study linked a bad marriage to cardiovascular health problems. A 2016 study found that only men experienced a decline in health after the death of a partner. Women actually experienced improvements in health after the death of a spouse.

Even with these findings highlighting the benefits of a single life, DePaulo does not believe one option is superior to the other. She points to the value of everyone pursuing the way of life that works best for them.

References:

  1. DePaulo, B., PhD. (2016, August 5). What no one ever told you about people who are single [PDF]. 2016: American Psychological Association.
  2. Knapton, S. (2016, April 22). Wives become less stressed after their husbands die, study finds. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/04/22/wives-become-less-stressed-after-their-husbands-die-study-finds/
  3. Psychologists reveals science behind a fulfilling single life. (2016, August 5). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2016/08/single-life.aspx

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  • Marie g

    Marie g

    August 11th, 2016 at 10:07 AM

    I thought that the general consensus was that married people are always happier and healthier than their single counterparts. I guess this proves that this is not always the full truth.
    I got married pretty young and was miserable, and was it easy being a single mother? Nope not at all, but I was happier and much more content with my life after divorcing.
    I guess the situation is going to be different for everyone, I can only speak to my own experiences.

  • Tina

    Tina

    August 11th, 2016 at 1:48 PM

    Then why all the dating websites if this is true?
    Someone has obviously seen something very differently and thinks that we all want a mate

  • drew

    drew

    August 13th, 2016 at 7:48 AM

    Honestly I am soooo confused! Sometimes we are said to be happier and other times it’s like we will die an early death because we are single. I think that it all depends on what the researchers want the story to be!

  • Della

    Della

    August 13th, 2016 at 2:01 PM

    Personally I don’t think that people who are single have nearly as many things that they have to worry about as those who are married do. When you are single you just basically have to learn ways to keep yourself happy, that’s it, no one else. But when you are married there’s the spouse and usually the kids, the in laws, everything that is part of a home you are responsible for handling. So yeah, I could definitely see there being a little more contentment coming from the single life.

  • EdN

    EdN

    August 15th, 2016 at 9:01 AM

    Do you think that the single respondents could be fibbing a little just to make themselves feel a little better?

  • Rebecca

    Rebecca

    August 16th, 2016 at 10:26 AM

    I can’t always go around comparing my situation to that of another person. This single person might be happier than that married person- who cares? It only matters if I am in a relationship, or not for that matter, that makes me happy and confident. I am the only one that I need to worry about, not everyone else.

  • Garrett

    Garrett

    August 30th, 2016 at 4:16 PM

    Given all of the institutional benefits of marriage, being married should make people much better off than single people, but that s not what her data is showing her. It should be noted that the research isn t saying that being single is better than being married, but it does offer a perspective of single life that society rarely depicts. She says it indicates that there is no one path to happiness , according to

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous

    May 13th, 2019 at 11:33 AM

    Not really. When you grow old all alone with no one to share your life with, that wouldn’t be fun at all.

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