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Why So Many Single Women Without Children Are Happy

For starters, stronger social lives outside of marriage.

Key points

  • Single women without children are often happier and healthier than men and married women with children.
  • Women tend to have stronger social networks outside of their romantic relationships.
  • Single women may be more selective than single men when choosing a partner, as they may enjoy their freedom.
Source: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

We have all heard the cliches. When a woman remains unmarried past a certain age, which has at least become a bit older over the years, we start to ask questions. Haven’t you found Mr. Right? What are you waiting for? Don’t you want to have kids? Men are subjected to similar inquiries, although the questions are different. Do we really think women should get married by a certain age, or are we just assuming as a society that there is an appropriate “time” to settle down?

Obviously, many women (and men) are happily married. But according to research, many women are perfectly happy remaining single.

Single Women Without Children Are Happy and Healthy

According to happiness expert Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics, women who are single with no children are the happiest.[i] Dolan explains says that while men derive benefits from marriage, the same cannot generally be said for women.

Dolan explains that men benefit from tying the knot because they "calm down." They become less inclined to take risks, earn more money, and live longer. But the same results do not benefit married women. In fact, Dolan notes that married men tend to be healthier due to less risk-taking, but marriage apparently does not impact women's health—except to the extent that middle-aged married women have an elevated risk of both mental and physical conditions as compared with their single counterparts. Dolan concludes that “[t]he healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children."

Relevant to the questions we ask our single female friends who have decided to fly solo, Dolan makes an interesting observation about the modern perception of success—as compared to the experience of happiness. While society values certain types of life accomplishments and achievements, Dolan notes that recent data shows that “long-established, traditional symbols of success did not necessarily correlate with happiness levels.”

Women Are More Satisfied Remaining Single Than Men

Other research demonstrates how singlehood for women is increasingly viewed as desirable. A study from data analysts Mintel indicates women are more satisfied with being single than men, and less likely to look for a relationship.[ii] Part of the explanation has to do with women working harder than their male counterparts in relationships.

According to Professor Emily Grundy, of the University of Essex, "There's evidence that women spend longer on domestic tasks than men and I think they also do more emotional work — so they still do more housework and cooking and things as well as more emotional labour."

Dr. Grundy also notes that women tend to be more involved within social networks as compared to men, who often rely strongly on their wives. In her words: "Women tend to be better at having alternative social networks and other confidantes whereas men tend to rely quite heavily on their wives for that and have fewer other social ties."

Selective When Choosing a Partner

Many single women are simply more selective in choosing a mate. Research notes how this explanation for singleness has evolved over the years.

Kinneret Lahad in “The Selective Single Woman as a New Social Problem” (2013)[iii] notes that a study of American single women in nineteenth-century New England found that selectiveness was equated with high morality. Yet Lahad notes that the larger body of literature indicates that selectiveness is more of a changing concept, “dependent on a multiplicity of factors and relating to different social realities.”

Lahad notes that modern selectiveness among single women often prompts practical advice suggesting that it is “time to compromise.” Yet Lahad poses several important questions: How do we distinguish between selectiveness and compromise? Does compromising involve losing or maintaining control? And how could a woman remain true to herself and also form a relationship—particularly if she is not ready?

It appears that despite societal standards that are somewhat outdated but changing slowly, many single women are enjoying the benefits of their selected status.

Facebook image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock




[iii] Lahad, Kinneret. “‘Am I Asking for Too Much?’ The Selective Single Woman as a New Social Problem.” Women’s Studies International Forum 40 (September 2013): 23–32. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2013.04.009.


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