Are you single? Are you happy? Are you healthy? Are your friends and family always trying to fix you up with someone – seemingly anyone? If you answered yes to most these questions, you’ll want to read this about living alone in America without being lonely, unhappy or unhealthy.
What’s So Bad About Being Single As You Get Older?
If you’re in the Boomer generation, you likely remember the popular song by the Turtles, “Happy Together”. The lyrics extolled the virtues of the romantic couple fantasy… “I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you for all my life… when you’re with me, baby the skies will be blue for all my life.” Now, granted that kind of blissful loveship sounds wonderful (if not a little overly optimistic) and if given the option to have that or remain single, I imagine most people would choose the relationship. Others may have had that kind of relationship at one time in their life and then lost it either through death or divorce.
The bottom line is, many people in America are single – either through default of an ended relationship or maybe even by choice. The numbers of singles are growing with 1 in 3 marriages ending in divorce every year. It’s true. Single Americans are the fastest growing “living unit” today with over 102 million single adult Americans (aged 18 and over) according to 2011 U.S. Census Facts and Figures.
In years past, if you weren’t married by the time you were 30, or if you were an older person who hadn’t replaced a lost relationship within 3 years, your friends, family, and many people had that pitying tone when they asked how you were. It was like there was something inherently bad or too sad about being, or staying, single. What’s so wrong with being single anyway? Well, that depends on whom you ask.
Health researchers typically have said that studies prove that single people are statistically “on the bottom rung” of the wellness ladder – especially older, single men who don’t take care of themselves very well. They live more dangerously, apparently – not wearing seat belts, drinking more, eating poorly, and engaging in promiscuous/unprotected sex. Single women seem to fare better, their studies say, as they are better equipped to take care of themselves and are more sensible in how they live. Researchers out of UCLA say that single people “lack the emotional, financial help of a committed partner” and that married people have better immune systems. But what about married, or otherwise coupled people, who are in unhappy relationships?
Other more recent research seems to point to the idea that because singles are growing in numbers, they may become the dominant living unit, and therefore less social disadvantages/stigma will exist in staying single. Researchers say that over the past 30 years, the health gap between married and unmarried persons has narrowed to almost completely closed. They go on to say that, once people accept their “singleness” , make peace with it so to speak, they do just as well as most married people, said one Rutgers University sociologist, Deb Carr.
Often times, singles have a much more expanded network of friends and acquaintances than marrieds do and they make more frequent contact with them. Recently, research has shown that maintaining an active social life – activities with friends – is key to staying healthy and living longer. It would seem that singles have couples beat in that area.
Doing Single Right
As most researchers would concur, there’s a big difference between living alone and living “isolated”. People who are isolated from human contact, social connections, and activities are much more likely to die at an early age. But isolation and loneliness doesn’t only occur amongst singles. Many married people are very lonely and isolated in marriages where there is little to no interaction with each other. They face the same health risks of loneliness/isolation as singles do, say researchers. The key to staying healthy and happy – whether you live alone or with a spouse, friend, relative – is to maintain positive human relationships.
The best way to live single, stay happy and healthy is to:
1. Seek out more social connections – join groups, clubs of like-interest people you can meet up with once a week or every other week. A great place to meet like-minded people with weekly, monthly group activities is Meetup.com.
2. Go where people go – get out of your house, go out for dinner, movie, whatever. Yes, it’s nice to have someone join you, but sometimes a friend is not available, so don’t be afraid to go solo.
3. Being single, you can make your lifestyle, living environment, hours, whatever you want it to be. Create the life you want, but be responsible in doing so and avoid reckless behavior.
4. If you’re older, make sure your home is fall proof. Secure throw and area rugs to floors with rug tape, watch electrical wires cutting your path. If you live alone, you want to make sure that you don’t fall where you could lie on a floor for hours. Always have a backup plan of who will come to check in on you if you don’t answer the phone.
To sum it up, despite the best efforts of friends and family always trying to play matchmaker for you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with living single. In some instances, your married/partnered friends may even be a little jealous of your freedom in only having to account for yourself.
On the other hand, if you’re single and truly hoping for a relationship, don’t wait for it to find you, and don’t settle for a fix-up if the person isn’t a match for you. Take responsibility for your own happiness and put yourself out there. Similarly, if you’re content living alone and living the single life, there’s no reason why you can’t be as content and healthy as happily married people. Take time to eat right, exercise, and live responsibly. Think of it as being happily married to you – promise to love, honor and take good care of yourself!
Dale Brown, B.S., M.A., C.E.C.
Natural Health News
Facts For Figures, US Census, http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb12-ff18.html
How To Live Alone Without Being Lonely, http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2012/03/29/how-to-live-alone-without-being-lonely