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.
According to Bloomberg, 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 impacts your success:
A recent study on marital satisfaction released by the National Bureau of Economic Research and previously reported on by Business Insider suggests that the happiest people are those who are married to their best friends.
The authors concluded that partners can provide each other with a unique kind of social support and help each other overcome some of life's biggest challenges, and people with the most difficult lives -- for example, middle-aged people, who often experience a dip in personal well-being -- can benefit the most.
However, there are other kinds of social support that single are more likely to have the edge on.
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.
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.
According to two Atlantic writers who crunched some numbers, single women can pay as much as $1 million more than their married counterparts over a lifetime.
The writers looked at the tax penalties and bonuses, as well as living expenses like health spending and housing costs.
According to the US Department of the Treasury Office of Tax Analysis, more married couples under the age of 65 on average see bonuses than not for filing joint tax returns, something single people can't do.
According to the BLS data the Atlantic writers looked at, single women spent 7.9% of their annual income on their health, compared to couples who spent on average 6.9%.
And when it came to housing, single people tended to pay more: While married couples spent on average 23.9% of their annual income on housing, single men spent 30.3% and single women spent 39.8%.
By combining resources and splitting costs, married people have the edge on all kinds of day-to-day expenses in addition to rent or mortgage: One cable bill, one utilities bill, and shared groceries can all lead to big savings.
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 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 less hours outside the home per year than do their married peers, while men between 44 and 46 work 403 less 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 hours more than their married counterparts, unless they're peers are childless.
Various studies point to the effect your single status can have on your health.
Researchers from the University of Maryland found that men and women between the ages of 18 and 64 who had never been married tended to exercise more each week than those who were either married or divorced.
Research would seem to bear out the stereotype that once people get married, they let themselves go. One study, for example, found that married men were 25% more likely to be overweight or obese compared to single men.
But other research suggests that single people may lose out on other health benefits.
Recent research out of New York University’s Lagone Medical Center found that married people had a 5% lower chance of cardiovascular disease compared to single people.
'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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