Once upon a time, being single carried a certain stigma. Women living alone were cast as miserable Bridget Jones-style singletons, while single men were regarded as reckless and perhaps a bit selfish.
But, no more.
The number of single people living in Britain has skyrocketed in recent years, with ONS statistics showing one-person households have risen by half a million over the past decade.
Solo living is a social trend that’s on the up, and while the increase is partly to do with a growth in pensioners due to longer life expectancy, it seems more and more of us are actively choosing to reap the rewards of flying solo.
From achieving your dreams without compromise to a better social life and greater fulfillment, these benefits are rich indeed.
With a new article from Business Insider highlighting how being single can improve your life, we take a closer look at the perks associated with going it alone:
Single people are more sociable
While being single has long been affiliated with notions of loneliness and isolation, detailed social studies indicate that the opposite is actually true.
A 2016 survey from the University of Massachusetts showed that being single increases the social connections of both men and women, with those people nurturing better relationships with their parents, siblings, neighbours, colleagues and friends.
“When people marry, they become more insular,” explains social scientist Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., who has spent many years researching and writing about single people.
DePaulo’s own work at the University of California illustrates this, with data showing that single people have closer connections with friends and family compared to those who are partnered up – in part due to their greater impetus to reach out to others.
Single people, she says, “are more likely than married people to encourage, help and socialize with their friends and neighbours”. They are also “more likely to visit, support, advise and stay in touch with their siblings and parents”.
Moreover, they “tend to participant in more civic groups and public events, enroll in more art and music classes, and go out to dinner more often than people who live with others”.
“I’ve found that the rise of single living is a boon to our cities and towns and communities, our relatives and friends and neighbours,” DePaulo says.
Her research shows an increasing number of single people are setting up alternative versions of a traditional nuclear family that feature friends, ex-partners and mentors.
They may live in a co-housing arrangement, to hit the perfect balance between easy socialibility and solitude. And of course, they often strike up romantic relationships that involve none of the faff of actually living together.
Being single gives you greater meaning
In a 24/7 world where we’re always “on” and connected, we crave the value of head space more than ever before – and yet, few people actually manage to carve out time for themselves.
If you’re single, you’re free to spend more time on your own. This in turn gives you the breathing room to work out who you are, and what you want to do with your life.
“Living alone helps us pursue sacred modern values — individual freedom, personal control, and self-realization — whose significance endures from adolescence to our final days,” says sociologist Eric Klinenberg, author of the book Going Solo.
Klinenberg, who is himself married, adds that: “It’s very hard to get private space. I have much less time for solitude. I go out much less. I have more responsibility. When I lived alone, I had complete control over my social life. I could stay out as late as I wanted, sleep in as late as I wanted. No one ever told me my shower was too long. Those are wonderful things.”
Little wonder a 1998 study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that single people enjoy greater autonomy and personal growth than their married counterparts. They are more likely to “report feeling that their life has been a continuous process of learning, changing, and growth,” says Business Insider.
This feeling of self-realization translates to all levels of daily life.
“Other people are distracting and not just when they are talking to you or playing obnoxious music or watching annoying TV,” DePaulo writes in Psychology Today.
“The mere presence of other people can sap some of your emotional and intellectual resources. If someone else is around, a small part of you is paying attention to them. When you live alone, you can think with your whole mind and feel with your whole heart.”
Single people sleep better
A wealth of research shows single people sleep better than those who are married or separated.
Earlier this year, a survey of 2,000 adults by mattress company Amerisleep showed clearly that singletons fare best when it comes to both the quality and quantity of their snoozing.
Whether it’s the sound of snoring or tussling over the duvet, there are a multitude of reasons why sharing a bed might interrupt the quality of sleep at night.
“There is nothing sacred about always sleeping together. This is an American romantic delusion,” notes self-styled sleep guru Arianna Huffington.
Carying bedtimes, mismatched body clocks or even different preferences in room temperature can all create sleep deprivation among couples.
And when you factor in the impact of family life, it becomes even clearer why those who live alone enjoy better sleep. Unsurprisingly, having children can decrease sleep quality by more than 50%.
“Poor sleep is bad for your physical, mental and emotional health. There is no good thing about poor sleep,” says sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley, who points to the fact that the average size of a British double bed means that sharing it results in nine inches less sleeping space than an average child’s bed.
In other words, not the kind of space that’s conducive to a happy night’s slumber.
Since getting enough sleep is a key element of happiness and wellbeing, this particular facet of singledom could improve your life to a dramatic degree.