Who is more satisfied with their single lives, men or women? It is a question I am often asked. It makes me happy that this time, I can answer with data from countries other than the United States.
A scholar at a Polish university (Dominika Ochnik of the University of Opole) and one from a German university (Gal Slonim of Potsdam University) collaborated to study single people in both countries.
The 316 German singles (103 women and 213 men) and the 196 Polish singles (123 women and 73 men) who participated met these criteria:
- They were older than 30
- They had always been single (never married)
- If they were currently in a romantic relationship, it had lasted no more than 6 months (27% had never been in a romantic relationship that lasted more than 6 months and 26% had only been in one such relationship)
- They had no children
- They were heterosexual
The German singles were part of an annual study based on a nationwide random sample. The Polish single people were recruited in a less systematic and potentially more biased way – from a dating portal and from lectures and meetings for single people. (The article didn’t specify the nature of the lectures or meetings.)
Participants indicated their satisfaction with singlehood on a 5-point scale, with a rating of 5 indicating “extremely high” satisfaction.
On the average, the German singles were more satisfied with their single lives than the Polish singles, 3.7 vs. 2.6. The authors note that marriage is less highly valued in Germany than in Poland, and that the recent growth in the number of single people has been fairly slow in Poland. Perhaps those factors, and other cultural considerations, account for the differences. However, I don’t feel confident about the overall differences, because the two groups were recruited in such different ways. The Germans were from a representative sample, whereas many of the Polish singles were recruited from a dating site.
More compelling to me were the differences within each country. In both Germany and Poland, the single women were more satisfied with their single lives than the single men were. (The differences were similar in the two nations: 3.8 for the women vs. 3.5 for the men in Germany; 2.8 for the women and 2.4 for the men in Poland.)
Previously, drawing mostly from data from the U.S., I’ve discussed whether single women and married men fare best. You can read my more detailed discussions here and here. The short version is that when there is a difference, it typically is the single women who do better than single men, though there are some exceptions. I also think, as I’ve explained, that as young people stay single longer (or for life), men will get better at living single, and the difference between men and women will decrease. So far, though, that’s just a guess.