“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.”]