In legal definitions for interpersonal status, a single person is someone who is not in a relationship or is unmarried. In common usage, the term 'single' is often used to refer to someone who is not involved in any type of serious romantic relationship, including long-term dating, engagement, marriage, or someone who is 'single by choice'. Single people may participate in dating and other activities to find a long-term partner or spouse.
People may remain single for a variety of reasons, including financial and emotional or physical health issues, stress in the family, time constraints, education, career, personal preferences, advanced age or social fears, and living in a society or locality where there are an insufficient number of people of the preferred sex for romantic or sexual attraction. In some cases, single people may be uninterested in marriage, domestic partnership, or other types of committed relationships.
Certain careers and positions require that people remain single. Sometimes, this is coupled with celibacy or chastity, either for secular or for religious reasons, such as priests, nuns and monks in certain faiths. Loneliness can occur for some people who look for but cannot find anyone they might wish to date, especially for those suffering the loss of companionship following divorce or bereavement. Some single people, however, regard and appreciate solitude as an opportunity.
In some countries, particular laws may directly or indirectly disadvantage single persons. In the United States, for example, Social Security widow(er) benefits are only available to those persons who have been previously married, and single people in the United States pay more income taxes than married people. In many countries tour and holiday operators impose a penalty (often as much as 100%) on persons who travel alone.
Singledom by marriage annulment
If a marriage is annulled or found to have been void ab initio (i.e. not valid in law to start with), and assuming the person was not married previously, that individual is considered 'single', rather than unmarried. In that situation, the law behaves as though the parties thought they were married when, in actuality, they were not.
According to the United States Bureau of the Census, the fastest-growing household type since the 1980s has been the single person. Previously both socially uncommon and unaccepted due to perceived roles, public awareness, modern socioeconomic factors and increasingly available popular and lengthier education and careers have made the single lifestyle a viable option for many Americans, especially after the Vietnam War.
Similar to the United States, single-person households are increasingly popular in the United Kingdom. In recent years, studies have found that more citizens value career over personal relationships. The single-person households have also been spreading due to the high self-esteem it offers.
In Japan, it is not uncommon for citizens to choose to remain single. This has been illustrated with many public figures and celebrities. Women typically value friendships over romantic relationships and many continue to have jobs and marry later or forego marriage completely.
Marital status and health
Being single, like being in a relationship, affects people’s health. People have different perspectives on the ways in which marital status influences health. Indeed, a higher percentage of single people die at a younger age. While a lower percentage of married people tend die an early death.
According to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, “Being single is not good for your health and lifespan”. Being single makes it easier for people to lose connection to others. Lack of social relationships will cause people to gradually lose self-identity, support and purpose according to psychology professor Peggy A. Thoits at Indiana University. In a recent survey “There are 32 percent higher rates of early death in single men compared to married men. While single women have 23 percent higher rates of death compared to married women” report by the American Journals of Epidemiology Study. Researchers explained that single people experience more emotional factors that cause them to die sooner. Regarding a recent Harvard study “Socially isolated men have an 82 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease” .
People who support being single have different opinions on it, pointing out that that not all marriages are created equally. Healthy people, with psychological well being, have happy relationships with their partners. In contrast, unhappy marriages will have the opposite effect, “A bad marriage can make a person feel more isolated than being single” according to a sociologist professor Eric Klinenber at New York University. Another study of more than 10.000 adults found that married couples were more likely to gain weight during their process of romantic ventures than single people. In other words, married couples have a higher risk of weight gain that may be large enough to pose a health risk, report by a professor of sociology Zhenchao Qian, at Ohio State University.
Single men are often called bachelors. Single women are sometimes called bachelorettes, especially in festive contexts in American English, but the historic term is spinster. The connotations of the word spinster have changed over time so that it is now considered a derogotary term. The Oxford English Dictionary says in its usage notes for the word:
- The development of the word spinster is a good example of the way in which a word acquires strong connotations to the extent that it can no longer be used in a neutral sense. From the 17th century the word was appended to names as the official legal description of an unmarried woman: Elizabeth Harris of London, Spinster. This type of use survives today in some legal and religious contexts. In modern everyday English, however, spinster cannot be used to mean simply ‘unmarried woman’; it is now always a derogatory term, referring or alluding to a stereotype of an older woman who is unmarried, childless, prissy, and repressed.
Catherinette was a traditional French label for girls of 25 years old who were still unmarried by the Feast of Saint Catherine. The term sheng nu is used to describe unmarried women who are in mid to late twenties in China and East Asia.
Young singles have substantial purchasing power. They have relatively few financial burdens, tend to be early purchasers of fashion, are recreation oriented, and purchase travel and kitchen goods frequently. Members of this group frequently have large disposable incomes with which they indulge themselves. They are heavily targeted by product and service marketers.
Older singles are also a targeted market, for much the same reasons. They are typically divorcees or widowed, perhaps reconciled to being single for the rest of their lives, and looking to make the most of what remains to them. Their children, if any, will typically be financially independent. They may, or may not, be looking for another relationship. They also are heavily targeted by marketers. There is a whole industry dedicated to making unsolicited telephone calls to this group in the hope of exploiting the ones who are unable to distinguish between the honest and the dishonest.
Dating services are an especially targeted and advertised service for singles. The growth of the dating services and dating events industry has been so drastic that the phrase "dating–industrial complex" (reminiscent of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's term "military industrial complex") has been coined to capture the amount of money and manpower devoted to dating services for singles.
Singles events have been an area of particular growth in singles-related commerce. Many events are aimed at singles of particular affiliations, interest, or religions. Some of the most strongly attended such events are the Christmas Eve party targeted at young Jewish singles in major cities in North America, particularly the Matzo Ball and its big city competitors. A variety of other religious organizations' singles events are also very popular. However, dating via religious-sponsored singles events has also been criticized for fostering invasion of daters' privacy and undue expectations.
- Eligible bachelor
- Bachelor pad
- Bachelor party
- Sheng nu
- Single supplement
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