Here’s one way to get the world’s attention: Live to become Europe’s oldest person and attribute your longevity to staying single. Well, staying single and eating raw eggs.
Over the past week, the delightful story of Emma Morano, now 115 years and three months old, has gone viral. As The New York Times reported, Morano is “convinced that being single for most of her life, after an unhappy marriage that ended in 1938 following the death of an infant son, has kept her kicking.” She told the paper: “I didn’t want to be dominated by anyone.”
While study after study tries to convince us that marriage holds the keys to health and happiness, Ms. Morano (emphasis on the Ms.) provides an alternate narrative—her words received like a warm embrace by singles everywhere. Let us now turn that embrace into a group hug: Being single does come with some physical and emotional benefits. We’ve rounded up the research to prove it.
Strong friendships can provide more joy than a crappy marriage.
Studies have shown that true happiness over a lifetime comes from fostering strong connections—whether romantic, familial, or platonic. Which means all of those stats claiming marriage makes people happier are only half-right. A good marriage can provide a strong support network, which in turn leads to happiness—but studies have shown that single people with lots of friends, family, and close ties are equally happy. More and more research is pointing to the fact that it’s the quality of our relationships that matter when it comes to quality of life, not a marriage certificate.
Speaking of which: Marrying the wrong person can take a toll.
For all the flack single people get for not settling down, it’s a better option than settling for the wrong person. As NYU sociology professor Eric Klinenberg said in 2012: “A bad marriage can make a person feel more isolated than being single.” A 2014 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies backs this statement up, finding that “People in self-assessed poor marriages are fairly miserable and much less happy than unmarried people, even in the first year of marriages.”
Single people may be more resilient.
The fact that single people are going against the grain (i.e., not conforming to society’s antiquated expectations) makes them that much stronger, argues social psychologist Bella DePaulo. She’s studied the link between relationship status and happiness for years (she even wrote a book about it), and believes single people are cut from a more resilient cloth because, despite being “stereotyped, stigmatized, and ignored,” they still manage to live “happily ever after.” In other words: as happily and healthily as married folks.
Single people have fewer “love handles.”
They don’t call them “love handles” for nothing. Surveys have shown that many people attribute weight gain to falling in love and entering into a long-term relationship. And science agrees: Studies have shown that happily married people tend to put on more weight over time. Looks like those Netflix-and-Oreo nights really add up (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Single women are less likely to abuse alcohol.
A pretty depressing study from 2012 showed that women in long-term marriages drank more—and were associated with higher levels of alcohol abuse—than their single counterparts. Sadly, it’s no secret marriage works out better for men in the long run. As research has suggested, once married, women are often left with a “double shift”: They work a day job for income, then come home to work the “housewife” shift—taking on more of the cleaning and childrearing than men do.
Single people sleep better.
The biggest perk to being single may be having the bed to yourself. Years of research from sleep expert Neil Stanley have found that couples experience 50 percent more sleep troubles than singletons. As many of us know, sleep is key to happiness and well-being, while poor sleep has been linked to depression, heart disease, strokes, weight gain, and even divorce. In other words: “Bedtime for one” doesn’t sound so bad.