The Rise of Singleness
The rise of singleness, in the UK and the West in general, has become one of the big trends in the developed world in the last few decades.
Perhaps a great symbol of this trend is the advent of the “half-loaf”, designed by bread makers Hovis specifically for the single person market (as The Telegraph reported a few years ago).
There are now almost twice as many people living alone in the UK than 40 years ago, according to the 2011 General Lifestyle Survey Overview from the Office for National Statistics
Single parent families, divorcees, singletons by choice and not; as time goes on more and more of these types of households are becoming a permanent feature of the British landscape.
As these types of households grow, there is also appearing a new niche in health studies, health journalism and health blogging – “Health and Single People “
What’s the Relationship Between the Two?
Well, the picture appears to be somewhat mixed. On one hand we get recent headlines like this from The Telegraph ( – “Stay Single, die younger, say scientists” and
“Being single is bad for your health” (The Express ).
These article both cite studies, one from Duke University in the US and one in University College London, which apparently show that being single, long term, actually damages your health.
The Duke study purports to show that being married give better longevity prospects than that of singletons. In favour of the Duke study, the Telegraph argued that
“The increased emotional support enjoyed by married people was thought to be an important factor in helping them to live to an old age.”
A Growing Trend?
The Professor whose study was the basis for the Express headline above, also said – “(with regard to health) If you happen to be a single person it is not positive…” and goes on to say,
“…a partner can positively influence your health behaviour by encouraging you to exercise more, as well as provide important support in tough times.”
This statement echoes the findings of first study.
And there are more studies like this; it would seem to be persuasive.
There was even a study conducted on respected website “Psychology Today” which made the claim that married people take, on average 6 sick days a year, compared to 7.3 days sick per year for single people.
So it seems that even the workplace is affected by singleness!
So what’s The Other Side of The Story?
Yet other well respected studies can also be used to argue the opposite of the conclusion reached by the media and researchers cited above.
A leading researcher in the area of single people’s health is Bella De Paulo PhD, who is author of “Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After”
She has been quoted, in her assessment of the research, as saying: “The link between relationship status and well-being is a complicated one…That’s because every relationship and every person is different.”
So maybe being single isn’t so bad after all…here’s the evidence:
A 2013 study in the journal Health Psychology (Telegraph) found that happily married couples tend to gain weight in the four years after getting married. The argument as to why this is goes something like: when you are single, the pressure to find a mate is quite strong, but when you are married this pressure dissipates, so you put on weight.
These weight gain findings we recently backed up by other scientific studies by the University of Minnesota, and in the Australian journal “Body Image”.
What about Exercise?
In addition to the findings above, other 2014 studies at The Universities of Maryland and Massachusetts have found that unmarried adults exercised more than married ones, and also that single people were better at maintaining relationships than those who had tied the knot.
So we can see that there is a mixed, inconclusive picture that has emerged from the research over the last few years. Will the evidence begin to lean one way or the other with regard to the health of singles?
Perhaps time will tell.