For decades, marriage has been glorified as one of life’s greatest achievements. For this reason, single people (women in particular) have historically been shamed for not being in a romantic relationship, being made to feel as though something was wrong with them.
This is what psychologist Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., refers to as “mental blanketing”- the relentless glorifying of marriage and the shaming of single people .
It turns out, however, that not only are single people no longer buying into that mentality, but an increasing number of people are choosing to remain single. Why? Just because they want to.
The Rise of Singledom
Over the last several years there has been an interesting trend emerging: more and more Americans are staying single. According to US census data, in 2017 there were 110.6 million people aged eighteen or older in the United States who were single- that is 45 percent of all US adults .
Of that 110 million, more than sixty percent of them had never been married. 23 percent were divorced, and 13 percent were widowed .
These numbers have been climbing steadily since the 1960s, and every year when the census data is released there appear to be more single people than the last .
Survey Says: Singles Like Being Single
What’s perhaps even more interesting is that a lot of these single Americans are reportedly happy being that way, and have no interest in a serious romantic relationship. This flies in the face of the generally-accepted idea that all people who are single wish that they weren’t.
While you may be thinking that this cultural shift is recent, we know that it has actually been the case for at least the last fifteen years. In 2005, the Pew Research Center asked over one thousand unmarried Americans (who were either always single, divorced, widowed, or separated) two questions:
- Whether they were in a committed romantic relationship
- Whether they were currently looking for a romantic partner
The survey found that 55 percent of Americans were not in a committed relationship, nor were they looking for one. For women that percentage was even higher at 65 percent. Only sixteen percent of the people surveyed said they were single and looking for a partner. This was the smallest percentage of respondents, which indicates that the idea that singles are looking for a committed relationship is completely false .
Newer Data Agrees
Recently, the Pew Research Center released another similar study which sheds even more light on the state of romance in America. This one used a random sampling of nearly five thousand adults in the US and found that half of the single people in the country are not interested in being in a committed relationship, or even going on a date .
The survey also found that another ten percent just want casual dates, and 26 percent of single people would be interested in either casual dates or a committed relationship. Only fourteen percent of the people in the sample were looking for a serious romantic partner .
This trend is happening all over the world. In a recent report by the United Nations study entitled “Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World”, the organization concluded that marriage is on the decline everywhere .
This report found that more and more women all over the world were reaching their late forties without ever having been married, that the average age of people who do get married is increasing, and that the number of people in their late forties who are divorced or separated is also increasing .
Why Are People Uninterested in Marriage?
DePaulo reviewed studies about romantic relationships for years, and has found one strong and consistent finding: people who have already been married once before but are either divorced or widowed are the least interested in getting married again .
In fact, 56 percent of divorced people said they were uninterested in a romantic relationship or even a date, and that number was even higher for widowers, at 74 percent. DePaulo says that the high level of disinterest among people who were widowed is possibly due to age, which is confirmed by the study’s findings that found that 75 percent of people over the age of 65 were not interested in a relationship or a date.
Even in younger groups, though, there was still a strong cohort of individuals who said they did not want to be in a committed relationship- 39 percent for 30 to 49-year-olds, and 37 percent for eighteen to 29-year-olds.
But why do these people want to stay single? The two most popular answers in the Pew study were that they have more important priorities, and that they simply like being single. People under the age of fifty were especially likely to say that they had more important priorities, with 61 percent of respondents in the age category giving this response.
Other reasons for wanting to stay single included:
- 20 percent: too busy
- 17 percent: feel like no one would be interested
- 18 percent: haven’t had luck in the past
- 17 percent: not ready after losing a spouse or ending a relationship
- 17 percent: feel like I am too old
- 11 percent: have health problems that make it difficult 
The Pressure is Off
The results of the Pew study make one thing abundantly clear: an increasing number of Americans are no longer feeling the pressure from our traditionally matrimonial society to get married or find a romantic partner. This is particularly true for older people.
Whether it’s because they have other priorities, like getting an education, advancing their career, or travelling the world, or if it’s because they simply enjoy being unattached, the need for romance and partnership seems to be decreasing just about everywhere.
For decades, never getting married and “dying alone” was a fear held by many, but as it turns out, not only is being single pretty great, many people actually prefer that way of life. So if you’re single and loving it, you’re not alone- you’re part of a growing trend that does not appear to be changing anytime soon.