Watch just about any romantic comedy or talk to your haughtiest married friends and you’ll see that single life is wrapped in stigma. As the stereotype goes, single people would be much better off if only they got married.
As New York University sociologist Eric Klinenberg writes in his book, “Going Solo,” when discussed publicly, the rise of living alone is often presented as an unmitigated social problem and a sign of diminished public life.
But not everybody thinks this way.
In the US, people are getting hitched less often than they once did, and young Americans are putting off marriage more than ever before.
In 1962, half of 21-year-olds and 90% of 30-year-olds had been married at least once. In 2014, only 8% of 21-year-olds and 55% of 30-year-olds had been married.
Single Americans are now the majority.
“For decades social scientists have been worrying that our social connections are fraying, that we’ve become a society of lonely narcissists,” Klinenberg tells The New York Times. “I’m not convinced.”
And neither are a number of researchers. These studies begin to unpack the question of how being single affects your success, for worse or better:
However, there are other social scenarios where singles are more likely to have the edge.
Research suggests that, compared to married people, Americans who have always been single are more likely to support and stay in touch with their family and are more likely to help, encourage, and socialise with friends and neighbours.
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics' Time Use Survey, single Americans spend on average 12 minutes a day staying in touch with other people by calling, emailing, or sending mail to them. Married people spend on average 7.8 minutes a day keeping in touch.
Klinenberg explains that, despite extraordinary external pressure that can lead to self-doubt, being single doesn't condemn someone to a life of feeling lonely or isolated.
'On the contrary, the evidence suggests that people who live alone compensate by becoming more socially active than those who live with others, and that cities with high numbers of singletons enjoy a thriving public culture,' he writes.
Klinenberg also believes that, in the age of expanding digital media and growing connectedness, being single offers a clear advantage: more restorative solitude.
More alone time helps people discover who they are and what gives their life meaning and purpose, he explains.
'Living alone helps us pursue sacred modern values -- individual freedom, personal control, and self-realisation -- whose significance endures from adolescence to our final days,' Klinenberg writes.
Whether conducted in solitude or with other people, singles tend to spend more time on overall leisure activities than married people.
According to the BLS, single people spend on average 5.56 hours a day on overall leisure activities, compared to married people, who spend an average 4.87 hours a day on leisure.
Broken down even further, single people spend on average about three minutes more a day participating in sports, exercise, and recreation than married people, about 16 minutes more a day watching TV, and about 15 minutes more a day playing games and on leisurely computer use.
A recent study conducted by W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, and Robert Lerman, an economics professor at American University, suggests that men see bigger salaries when they're married compared to their single counterparts, while women see the reverse.
According to the study results, single men between 28 and 30 years old earn around $15,900 less per year in individual income compared to their married counterparts, while single men between 44 and 46 years old make $18,800 less than married men of the same ages.
While the study authors did not consider these findings statistically significant, single women between 28 and 30 years old, on the other hand, earn $1,349 more per year in individual income compared to their married counterparts, while single women between 44 and 46 years old make $1,465 more than married women of the same ages.
The same study authors noted that income typically depends, in part, on the time men and women devote to the labour force.
They found that single men between 28 and 30 work 441 fewer hours outside the home per year than do their married peers, while men between 44 and 46 work 403 fewer hours if they are single.
Young single women work 196 hours more than do their married peers, though this number becomes negligible when their married peers have no children. And middle-aged single women work 131 more hours than their married counterparts, unless their peers are childless.
Still, more research suggests that single people may lose out on other health benefits, including one study that found married people tend to live longer than their single counterparts.
'It might be that if someone is married, they have a spouse who encourages them to take better care of themselves,' says Dr. Jeffrey Berger, a preventive cardiologist at NYU, according to the AP.
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