Studies Suggest Being Single Isn’t Inherently Bad For Your Health

Being lonely, on the other hand...

Heart on bench
Are relationships really better for your health?
Jamez Picard/Unsplash

Will marriage lead to a longer life? Recent studies have offered good news for married people — and less-than-great news for their single counterparts. But there’s a more nuanced way to look at the results of various studies so that, if you happen to be single (he typed, raising his hand), the years ahead don’t fill you with an ominous sense of foreboding. Well, at least not about that.

For one thing, there are the results of a 2021 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, which suggests that the idea of marriage as a health boost isn’t wholly accurate. The study’s authors found that the benefits were limited — largely to the men involved. (The study only explored heterosexual marriages.) The scientists also reached a somewhat different conclusion: “Men with more sustainable premarital health had a higher chance of marrying.”

A recent article in The Guardian ponders that study as well as several others to argue that marriage isn’t the source of health boosts to the extent that significant relationships of any kind is. Alternately, a single person with numerous deep friendships is likely to be in better health than a single person who’s a hermit.

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The article also explores other nuances of the married-single health divide. “It’s worse for your health to be in an unhappy, high-conflict marriage than to be unmarried,” Ohio State University’s Krisi Williams told The Guardian.

There’s a connection between loneliness and health, that much is true — and it’s been the subject of everything from nonfiction books to comedy sketches. But that might bear more consideration than viewing health through a more binary married/single lens.

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