Psychologist reveals science behind a fulfilling single life

Credit: Jeff Belmonte / Wikipedia

Dating shows, dating apps - they all strive to make sure none of us end up uncoupled forever. But it turns out many single people embrace their single lives, and are likely to experience more psychological growth and development than married people, according to a psychologist who presented at the American Psychological Association's 124th Annual Convention.

"The preoccupation with the perils of loneliness can obscure the profound benefits of solitude," said Bella DePaulo, PhD, a scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "It is time for a more accurate portrayal of single people and single life - one that recognizes the real strengths and resilience of people who are single, and what makes their lives so meaningful."

DePaulo cited longitudinal research that shows single people value meaningful work more than , and another study that shows single people are also more connected to parents, siblings, friends, neighbors and coworkers. "When people marry, they become more insular," she said.

However, research on single people is lacking, DePaulo claimed. She searched for studies of participants who had never married and, of the 814 studies she found, most did not actually examine single people but used them as a comparison group to learn about married people and marriage in general.

The studies that did focus on single people revealed some telling findings, she said. For example, research comparing people who stayed single with those who stayed married showed that single people have a heightened sense of self-determination and they are more likely to experience "a sense of continued growth and development as a person," DePaulo said.

Another study of lifelong single people showed that self-sufficiency serves them well: The more self-sufficient they were, the less likely they were to experience negative emotions. For married people, the opposite was true, according to DePaulo.

There are more unmarried people than ever before in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2014, there were 124.6 million unmarried Americans over age 16, meaning 50.2 percent of the nation's adult population identified as single, according to BLS. In contrast, only 37.4 percent of the population was unmarried in 1976.

Married people should be doing a lot better than single people in view of the number of laws that benefit them, DePaulo said, but in many ways, they aren't. "People who marry get access to more than 1,000 federal benefits and protections, many of them financial," she said. "Considering all of the financial and cultural advantages people get just because they are married, it becomes even more striking that single people are doing as well as they are."

Despite the advantages of staying single, DePaulo doesn't claim one status is better than the other. "More than ever before, Americans can pursue the ways of living that work best for them. There is no one blueprint for the good life," she said. "What matters is not what everyone else is doing or what other people think we should be doing, but whether we can find the places, the spaces and the people that fit who we really are and allow us to live our best lives."

Explore further

Even thinking about marriage gets young people to straighten up

More information: Session 2124: "What No One Ever Told You About People Who Are Single," Plenary, Friday, Aug. 5, 2 - 2:50 p.m. MDT, Room 201, Level 2, Meeting Room Level, Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th Street, Denver.
Provided by American Psychological Association
Citation: Psychologist reveals science behind a fulfilling single life (2016, August 5) retrieved 22 February 2019 from
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Aug 05, 2016
The least insightful article ever on Physorg ! Obvious to everyone that looks around them .

Aug 05, 2016
The least insightful article ever on Physorg ! Obvious to everyone that looks around them .

Maybe it's an advertisement to married people who keep trying to set up their single friends with dates. D~

Aug 08, 2016
I was single for ages, no problem. In a relationship now, no problem. You just have to not obsess over it, which is hard for people.

Aug 08, 2016
Consider this from another perspective. Perhaps the single person may achieve happiness in that lifestyle, but the greater society gains more happiness if men and women marry and reproduce. Their children are sources of growth of wealth, and they fuel the economy as consumers. They also are capable of caring for their parents in the period of life when that is necessary. But childless people require someone else to care for them, someone to be paid, and the single person does not contribute the value of the service but instead pays taxes at a rate that does not make up the difference. Single people almost guarantee big government. Single people are darn close to being parasites, keeping it in a biological framework. The birds and the bees know how serious reproduction is to the survival of the species. It's very, very hard work. Single people skip it. Of course they're happier; who wouldn't be?

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