Just Got Dumped? These 6 Health Benefits Of Being Single Prove There's Nothing Sad About Rolling Solo
It's springtime, which means that couples are everywhere, kissing in your local parks, proposing to each other at your favorite restaurants — and if you're single, you probably just want to throw donuts at all of them (If not something heavier.) Sometimes it feels like the world is conspiring against single people, and scientific news isn't any different: a 2012 study found that unmarried people are three times more likely to die in the years after heart surgery than patients who've tied the knot; single people are more likely to be substance abusers; and married men have a 46% lower chance of dying early than unmarried ones. But all is not lost — while the studies that tout marriage as a cure-all get the big press, science has found some perks to being single, as well as some minuses to pairing off.
And most of the arguments for coupling up are actually quite circumstantial. For example, much of the scientific evidence about marriage being good for women is based on the assumption that the marriage in question is healthy and happy. Research shows that being in a bad marriage is bad for women's health, damaging everything from the cardiovascular system to the immune system. Unhappily married ladies are, scientifically speaking, much worse off than people without relationships.
So next time somebody smugly asks you whether you've "found anyone yet", pelt them with a flurry of journal articles and flee into the night. Or just give a polite smile and quote one of these six studies about the health benefits of being single. Either one is good.
1. Single People Gain Less Weight
The so-called "freshman fifteen" pales in comparison to the weight gain typically experienced by couples who've happily exchanged the rings and thrown the confetti. Gaining weight during the honeymoon years of heterosexual marriage is no sitcom myth: a 2012 study found that, on average, women gain 24 pounds and men gain 30 in their first five years of wedded bliss.
And that sort of gain puts a strain on your heart and raises your risk of diabetes, liver disease and stroke. Something to think about when you're picking out yet another Williams & Sonoma gravy boat to give as a gift at yet another summer wedding this year.
2. Single People Have Better Social Bonds
You're not imagining it — Karen has become much worse at returning your calls since she married Kendall. A 2006 study from the University of Amherst found that single people are a lot better at maintaining and nourishing social bonds in their lives, lavishing attention on friends, family and coworkers.
These study results may just seem like an opportunity to humblebrag about being a great, caring person (so much better than that Karen), but social bonds have an effect on your health, too. Maintaining a close network of friends has been shown to lower damaging stress levels, help you recover from hard illnesses, and extend your lifespan. So there you have it: skipping date night for a group outing to the movies is good for you.
3. Single People Exercise More
Despite the terrifying number of couples you see jogging together in matching outfits, coupledom actually isn't a great asset when it comes to maintaining an exercise regimen.
The statistics are pretty damning: 63% of married women in the UK don't exercise enough according to doctors, compared to 33% among women who are single or divorced. Which is concerning — because the health benefits of sticking to a gym routine don't magically evaporate the second you put a ring on it.
4. Single People Experience Less Body-Damaging Stress
Remember the whole "stressful marriage equals terrible health" problem discussed above? Well, it's true — the effects of stress on the body are pretty stupendous. The American Psychological Association reported in 2010 that one in three married women say they suffer from "high" levels of stress. But when they surveyed single ladies, only one in five said she was stressing out.
48% of married women also report feeling so stressed they get headaches and exhaustion, compared to only 33-35% of singles. It's clear: the single life is pretty stress-free when compared to coupledom. Thus, being single keeps you protected from some stress-related problems like skin issues, depression, anxiety, heart problems and asthma.
5. Single People Are More Resilient
Bella dePaulo, the author of Singled Out : How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, has a thesis: even though the decks seem stacked against single people, they still often succeed in life — and that's because they're more resilient, both physically and mentally, than married people.
It's not just a wild theory: there's some science to back it up, too. One study found that women who've never been married spend fewer days sick each year than their married counterparts. So if you're single and hit a bump in the road, your body might bounce back faster than a partnered friend's.
6. Single People Get More Sleep
In a survey that led to great debate about whether "spooning" is just a load of crap, a survey of 1,408 UK couples found that a quarter of them had to sleep apart at night (in a couch or another bed) in order to both get a good night's sleep. It seems that snuggling actually isn't all that great for your sleep patterns after all.
Another study reported in the Wall Street Journal laid out all the problems that can come up when two people share a bed: clashing body clocks when night owls pair up with early birds; conflicting sleeping positions; different preferences for room temperature... it's a wonder couples get any sleep at all. Apparently there are emotional health benefits to bed-sharing (bed-sharers get a lot more oxytocin, the cuddle chemical, for instance), but for sheer unadulterated snoozing, not sharing is the way to go. And quality sleep is no trivial matter: people who get enough sleep have a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and injury. So singles should luxuriate in their beds while they can — the window before a new partner arrives and ruins it with their weird 3 a.m. snoring might be smaller than you think.
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