Salud to Singletons

"Never marrieds" are catching up to their healthier wedded counterparts—but maybe they were never that far behind.

By Carlin Flora, published November 1, 2008 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Those lucky newlyweds: They get toasters and blenders and health upgrades, just for walking down an aisle! Or so the argument has gone, for at least the last decade.

A study that analyzed self-reported health measurements from 1972 through 2003 found that singles—especially men—have nearly caught up to their hitched friends healthwise. "Now that never marrying is more acceptable, singles have more financial resources and social support available to them," which likely alleviates singles' stress and enables them to take more preventative health measures, explains Michigan State professor and lead researcher Hui Liu.

Bella DePaulo, psychologist, author of Singled Out, and PT blogger, contends that the original studies suffered from some methodological flaws, and that the designated "never marrieds" were never the raw-cookie-dough-eating couch potatoes the media has portrayed them to be. She argues that if subjects who are married and those who have been married were together compared to singles, the never marrieds would come out on par or even ahead. That's because the divorced and widowed, who have also experienced the marriage business that is supposedly an elixir, are actually worse off than any other group in terms of their physical conditions.

Since marriage can provide unique benefits such as health insurance and joint gym membership discounts, why are singles doing so well? "I think it's because they have a more diversified relationship portfolio," DePaulo explains. "They aren't depending on one person to fulfill all their needs. They maintain strong ties with friends and siblings over the years." The psychological and practical support friends provide are known to affect health. Also, she says, compared to 30 years ago, single people today are living much fuller lives, and are not putting dreams such as home buying on hold. Not waiting around for "the one" could be a health boost in itself.