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What People Get Wrong When They Put Down Single People

Previously, I shared some excerpts from an email that was written to me by a mental health professional. He was objecting to my round-up of scientific findings that were validating for single people. He has a much darker, more disparaging view of people who are single. It is a view that is full of demeaning stereotypes, and belied by scientific findings.

I shared some excerpts from his email last time. I’ll summarize some of them again, this time adding more about the relevant research that refutes his claims.

#1 THE FALSE CLAIM: Single people are selfish; they are not concerned with other people or society.

WHAT THE RESEARCH ACTUALLY SAYS: Single people are remarkably unselfish. There are many ways in which, on the average, they give more time, money, and care to other people.


#2 THE FALSE CLAIM: Single people are depressed and anxious. Or wait, maybe they are carefree.

WHAT THE RESEARCH ACTUALLY SAYS: No, single people on the average are not particularly depressed or anxious and marriage is an unlikely cure for such maladies in any case. And, single people are the ones who are especially likely to be there for their aging parents and other people who need sustained help; that flies in the face of the dismissive characterization of them as carefree.

You know what else most single people do not get to be carefree about? Money. Because of (a) laws that massively benefit, financially, only people who are legally married, (b) pay disparities that unfairly disadvantage single men, relative to married men, (c) special discounts that make all sorts of products and services cheaper by the couple, and (d) the greater expenses of living alone, for those who do live alone, compared to covering a rent or mortgage and household expenses with two salaries instead of one, single people are more likely to be struggling financially.

#3 THE FALSE CLAIM: Single people have empty, meaningless lives.

WHAT THE RESEARCH ACTUALLY SAYS: One of the profound rewards of single life is the experience of greater personal growth. This is the opposite of meaninglessness.


#4 THE FALSE CLAIM: Single people are materialistic and vain. What they really want to do is go on shopping sprees and “have the perfect beach body.”


Married people are in some ways more materialistic than single people. In the workplace, for example, they are especially focused on money; single people care more about work that is meaningful.

Rather than going on shopping sprees, single women are especially likely to curtail their spending on clothes when they are saving up to buy a home; they end up making fewer compromises on what they want in a home, even though their incomes are generally quite low.

It is true that single people generally exercise more than married people and that people who marry get fatter; but to dismiss these findings as indications merely of single people’s interest in “the perfect beach body” (instead of, say, their own good health) is egregiously disparaging.

In my next post, I’ll refute four more false claims, all from that same person. (Here it is.) Then, finally, I’ll say more about why it is so distressing when mental health professionals have unrecognized prejudices against single people.

What People Get Wrong When They Put Down Single People

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. (2018). What People Get Wrong When They Put Down Single People. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 13, 2018, from


Last updated: 20 Jan 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Jan 2018
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