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115 Years Old, Still Single, and Still Living Alone

italian240“Can staying single really help you live forever?” That was the headline of a story at Fusion, picking up on an article at the New York Times that zipped around the internet soon after it was published – fittingly, on Valentine’s Day.

Our heroine is Emma Morano of Italy, born in 1899 and now one of the five oldest people in the world. She has been single since 1938 (so, for 77 years). Times reporter Elisabeth Povoledo said of Morano that she is “convinced that being single for most of her life…has kept her kicking.” In Morano’s own words, “I didn’t want to be dominated by anyone.”

I love living alone and so I was especially inspired to learn that Emma Morano, at age 115, is still living alone. Her niece stops by with meals every morning and a neighbor checks in occasionally, but she has had few emergencies or even illnesses and avoids hospitals even when she does. I loved learning that, too.

It is great fun to read stories about individual single people, and individual people (regardless of marital status) who have lived a very long time. People in the latter group are always asked to explain the secret to their longevity. But really, we don’t know whether the factors they believe to be significant really are, and even if they are significant for them, if they would matter for anyone else.

To answer the question, “Can staying single really help you live forever,” Fusion writer Taryn Hillin listed a series of empirically-based ways in which singles do particularly well. I made a list like that, too, with 23 examples; it is here.

The most relevant studies are the ones in which longevity is assessed in methodologically rigorous ways for sizable groups of people. The typical claim is that getting married makes people live longer, but I have scrutinized many of those studies over the years and found that such a claim is typically grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong. (I just published a collection of articles challenging the myth that getting married makes people happier and healthier and live longer and all the rest. The paperback version is here, the ebook is here, and you can read more about the collection here.)

The Times noted that “supercentenarians,” who live more than 110 years, are nearly all women. Because women typically outlive men, it is also highly likely to be true that the oldest people in the world are overwhelmingly single.

[Notes: (1) 9 of my e-books are currently on sale at Amazon for seven days, starting March 1, 2015. You can find the list here. (2) The Best of Single Life is now available in both Spanish and Portuguese. (3) Also if anyone is interested, my latest post at my personal website is, “More than you wanted to know about what I’m up to now and what’s next.”]

Italian woman photo available from Shutterstock

115 Years Old, Still Single, and Still Living Alone

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2015). 115 Years Old, Still Single, and Still Living Alone. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 17, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Mar 2015
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