This article was first published on PsychologyToday.com
In the United States, there are record amounts of single people. According to the 2017 Census data, there are more than 110 million adult single Americans. All over the world, people are opting for the single life as the cultural and societal norms of society have shifted, the economic incentive to get married has declined, and individualistic values rose.
But the rise of singlehood has tackled criticism: society teaches us that married people have someone to help them and support them in time of need, while single people are lonely.
However, a mounting amount of research shows that this is a myth. Being happy is not about being married but rather about having strong social relationships. William Chopik, a Michigan State University professor, conducted a study with more than 270,000 people in about 100 countries. He found that among people aged 65 or older, meaningful friendships were stronger indicators of health and happiness than familial relationships. As people age, friendships become increasingly more important for people’s health. Chopik found that single seniors (either divorced or never married) who have good friends are just as happy and healthy as married people. This is while familial relationships can be beneficial, but they sometimes come with difficulties and hectic interactions.
Maybe it will surprise some, but friendships are something that singles excel in. Recent studies show that singles have more friends and are better at maintaining their friendships than married people. In contrast, married couples tend to spend a majority of their time with their partner, and often leave friendships behind.
A 2015 study conducted by Natalia Sarkisian and Naomi Gerstel discovered that “being single increases the social connections of both women and men.” Not only do single people have more friends, but they are also better at maintaining their friendships. In contrast, when people get married, they tend to leave their friends behind. Sarkisian and Gerstel concluded that single people are more likely to keep in contact with and receive assistance from friends, family, and neighbors than those who are married.
Another research shows that on average, people in a committed relationship tend to lose two close friends. Both married and exclusive couples tend to spend the majority of their time with their partner at the expanse of spending time with friends. Oftentimes, marriages have a negative impact on people’s relationships with other people.
In turn, friendships have a strong and positive impact on singles. A 75 year Harvard human happiness study found that the best indicator of happiness is good social relationships. Another study conducted in the UK found that 45-year-olds with 10 or more friendships had higher levels of psychological well-being and happiness at age 50 than individuals with fewer friendships. Happy Singlehood shows that it all sums up to an advantage that singles hold.
No doubt, multiple studies show the benefits of having friends. Humans need friendships, but they no longer necessarily need marriages and relationships to be happy. Once people begin to stop questioning “why they are single” and embrace and take advantage of their singlehood, they will reap the benefits of being single. Perhaps it is time to fully eradicate the idea that single people are miserable and lonely. Single people can and do live their happily ever after.
This article was written with Lindsay Workman, UC Berkeley