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Part 2: Social Scientists Do Not Hear What Singles Are Telling Them

In my previous post, I promised to explain how the authors of a really terrific study seemed to miss what their own results were telling them about single life. Here are the goods:

In a 6-year study designed to test the implications of getting married (or entering a cohabiting relationship) for well-being, health, and social ties, here is what the authors found: Singles remained more connected to friends and parents than did the people who married or cohabited.

That was true during the first three years of the study, and it remained true during the next three years. Within the first three years, the people who married or cohabited did better than those who stayed single in health and well-being, but by the end of the next three years, there were no differences at all.

4 Comments to
Part 2: Social Scientists Do Not Hear What Singles Are Telling Them

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  1. Thought provoking article about that recent popular marriage vs single life study.

    What I’m waiting for is a comprehensive study on “Healthy Marriage”. For example, a study that looks at the emotional, physical and spiritual health effects of being in a marriage where both partners have strong communication skills and relationship oriented emotional intelligence; either “naturally” or through counseling/psycho-education.

    Such a study might also include include couples who are fully assessed for the quality of their attachment based emotional functioning. It might also include couples who have had evidence based couple counseling, pre-marital and periodic booster marital and parenting education interventions as well.

    Can you imagine the outcome of such large well controlled study on the benefits of “Healthy Marriage” for the whole family?

  2. You wrote…

    “Why is it that, by the second half of the study (years 4 through 6), singles continue to maintain their advantage over both cohabitors and married people in the strength of their social connections, but the coupled people now have no advantage at all over singles in happiness, self-esteem, depression, or health?”

    I wonder if it’s because by marriage years 4 through 6, many (if not most) married couples are busy raising toddlers. Raising toddlers is hardly a prescription for happiness, self-esteem, and health…if only from lack of sleep! I would imagine this starts to self-correct when the youngest kid reaches approximately age 8 or so.

    Just a theory.

  3. It seems difficult to assess the “advantage” of marriage over single life due to the fact that a marriage (ideally) should be longer than 4-6 years. Does the study talk about comparitive advantage in years 20-22? How about 50-52? What about the advantage to society once the couple is dead? What is their lasting impact? How about the single person?

    There are also too many values-based questions such as: What is more important, each individual’s happiness or the social utility they generate? What spiritual implications do people associate with marriage or single lifestyle?

    Trying to evaluate single lifestyle versus coupled lifestyle seems pointless because a) it’s too complicated and long-term and b) it’s all based on what you value anyway.

    So if you’re purpose is to try and convince me that the single lifestyle is just as valid as coupling, I would find anecdotes and case studies much more convincing.

  4. I’ve been divorced for over 10 years, but I feel more socially connected now than I ever did in my marriage and, ultimately, much less stress. True….there is the stress of being “it”….having to depend on oneself….but would you really want to be in a committed relationship just for that reason, I ask myself [with a resounding no for an answer]. I have deeper, committed friendships [than I was able to maintain while married, for ex.] and am actually more able to get my needs met just by the fact that I have more people in common to connect with while having less demands placed on me, overall.

  5. As a single, never married woman I have to say “thank you” and I am subscribing to your site! I spent years feeling like I should find the perfect mate, but now in my 50’s I am happy being single and developing a better support system all the time. I have better friends, good health, and no longer envy my sisters.

    Both my sisters are in their second marriages, have been married over 10 years, and both suffer from depression and other health conditions. Neither of them have much of a support network, though one has more supportive friends. Also, I remember thinking how odd it was that my mother really didn’t have any friends, except for occasional get-togethers with old college buddies.

    • Ruth,This is very interesting to me. Tomorrow is my third anniversary of being single. I have learned who I am in the past three years, and finding that my “becoming” is achieved in stages.I have a question I grapple with. How does the lack of close intimacy affect the single person? Is not sex and love a foundational part of becoming “self-actualized?” How do single people deal with the issue of loneliness? The loneliness that only a partner can solve. Yes, friends are wonderful, and a bad relationship is not worth it, but I don’t sleep with my friends.

      • One more thing, I think loneliness drives many into relationships whether they are good for us or not. Not good;/


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