Dying alone could be key to a longer, healthier and more fulfilled life
Few other aspects of our lives bring such frustration, joy and downright bizarre interactions. But perhaps the biggest debate is whether relationships are actually worth all the trouble in the first place. One writer believes they’re not.
Of all the lies sold to us by a lifetime of rom-coms—he’ll make a mad dash to the airport to stop you from getting on that plane, you’ll both orgasm all the time, there’ll be some delightful mix up where you end up sharing an Italian Airbnb with a hot stranger (it’s never Wollongong, is it?)—the most bitter is that you may end up alone, and that no greater tragedy could befall you. This is, to use a technical term, rubbish.
In fact, this is now more of a conscious choice than a matter of circumstance. According to the last census, more than two million Australians live in lone-person households. What’s more, the Bureau of Statistics also projects that lone-person households will rise by up to 65 per cent by 2036. That’s an estimated 4.3 million more such households and it reflects a global trend. A 2014 Pew report found that by the time today’s young adults reach the age of 50, about one in four of them will have never married.
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Think of it this way: You never have to compromise on what you want to watch on Netflix, you don’t have to politely decline the invitation to invest in your brother-in-law’s new ‘blockchain space’ business and there’s way less awkwardness should you decide to bring a random Tindr hookup home.
That’s just the superficial stuff, mind. University of California psychologist Dr Bella DePaulo, author of Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, has found myriad health benefits who opt for going partner-free.
Despite the lonely, outdated and sexist stereotype, she notes singles are more likely than marrieds to encourage, help and socialise with their friends and neighbours. They also have closer connections with parents and siblings.
Rather than retreat to voids of one-bedroom isolation at the end of the working day, DePaulo’s research indicates that singles by choice can actually have richer and more varied social lives than their coupled counterparts. In fact, she noted, “They tend to participate in more civic groups and public events, enroll in more art and music classes, and go out to dinner more often than people who live with others.”
DePaulo also found a correlation between singledom and volunteering, an activity which the Mayo Clinic has linked with lower risk of depression, increased life span and general better physical health. On a purely physical, a 2015 University of Basel study found that for average-height men and women, those who were single had a BMI that equated to about two kilograms less than marrieds. And as Medical News Today points out, a high BMI increases your risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, breathing problems, gallstones and even certain cancers.
DePaulo told the ABC: “Reports of the early death of single people have also been greatly exaggerated, as have claims that marriage transforms miserable, sickly single people into happy and healthy spouses.”
What’s more, she notes, singles generally have what she terms “more diversified relationship portfolios”, which in turn translate to greater life satisfaction, confidence in their own opinions and heightened levels of personal growth.
Doesn’t sound like too bad a deal to me.
David Smiedt is a Sydney-based writer and comedian. Up until recently, he thought Lagree was a type of beer.