Lately, it seems like you can’t open your newsfeed without stumbling across the latest study in a long line of studies that either praises or disparages the single life.
The most recent claim: being single might actually be bad for your health. The University College of London looked at 14 studies analyzing at the effect of relationships on the development of dementia. They studied more than 800,000 people over the age of 65 and found singles were at a 42 percent higher risk of having dementia than those in a relationship, while widows were at a 20 percent higher risk.
Dr. Laura Phipps, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, spoke to The Independent about the results. According to Phipps, it may have something to do with the fact that spouses might help encourage crucial healthy habits and provide necessary social support.
“There is compelling research showing married people generally live longer and enjoy better health, with many different factors likely to be contributing to that link,” Phipps said. “People who are married tend to be financially better off, a factor that is closely interwoven with many aspects of our health.”
However, before you enter into a panic spiral, here’s something to keep in mind: while dementia is associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities, it commonly occurs in people over the age of 65. If you’re still single and under the age of 65, should you really be worried about the possibility of an increased risk of dementia? I’m going to play devil’s advocate and say no.
While interesting and surely valuable, research like the study presented by The University College of London does absolutely nothing to erase the stigma that’s still associated with single adults. If you’ve ever been to a social event with your married or coupled friends and noticed the expression on their faces when they ask, “So, still haven’t found anyone yet?” you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Single stigma is real. It’s also quite ridiculous, especially when you consider that single Americans are now the majority.
In the U.S., people are tying the knot less often than they once did and young Americans are holding off on marriage more than ever before.
In 1962, half of 21-year-olds and 90 percent of 30-year-olds had been married at least once. In 2014, only 8 percent of 21-year-olds and 55 percent of 30-year-olds had been married.
Eric Klinenberg is a New York University sociologist and author of the book Going Solo. He tells The New York Times, “For decades social scientists have been worrying that our social connections are fraying, that we’ve become a society of lonely narcissists. I’m not convinced.”
Neither am I, Eric. Neither am I.
Regardless of what scientists say about the risk of dementia later in life, the benefits of being single right now are plentiful. Here are a few of them, if you’re still not convinced.
1. Being single provides the opportunity for you to truly get to know yourself.
Without having to worry about the needs of a long-term partner, you have the time and space to really get to know yourself. What are your needs? What makes you happy? What do you really want out of a relationship? Having the opportunity to explore and hopefully answer some of these questions will make you so much more better prepared should you meet someone you want to settle down with.
2. The freedom.
Oh, the freedom. While having a partner has lots of amazing benefits, there’s something particularly delicious about the freedom that comes with being single. You can spend all day on the couch binge watching your favorite show OR you can hit up a full moon party because you’re in the mood to dance all night, with zero judgement. After all, you only have to answer to yourself.
3. Being single can make you more social.
While single shamers like the ones Klinenberg mentions may think that single folk are eroding the social fabric of modern life, I’d argue the contrary. For many people, being single means that they can actually be more social. Whether you’re hanging out with friends or going on dates, both activities provide the opportunity for you to interact with your community and meet new people, which is never a bad thing.
While studies like this one are important to understanding our lives as humans, they’re not everything. You don’t need science to know whether you’re living your best life or not. If you’re happy being single, keep doing your thing.