Singles and mental health

Bella DePaulo, Elyakim Kislev

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The media, and even scientific journals, are filled with claims that marriage is good for health and well-being. A closer look at the research, though, with an eye on the methodological biases, shows that such claims often misrepresent or exaggerate the results of the research. In the current article, research on suicide, depression, loneliness, physical health, and happiness are reviewed. In cross-sectional research, people who stay single typically have very similar outcomes to those who are currently married. In longitudinal research, there is little evidence that getting married results in lastingly improved health or well-being. The risks of being unmarried, when there are any, are typically experienced by those who did marry and then got divorced or widowed. In cross-sectional research, the previously married often have less positive outcomes than the currently married or those who have always been single. In longitudinal research, people who divorce or become widowed sometimes do worse than they had before, though those initial negative reactions sometimes subside over time. Theoretical perspectives on marital status have focused primarily on the potential advantages of married life and disadvantages of single life. In doing so, they have left largely unrecognized some of the important costs of married life and rewards of single life. Predictions of the mental health implications of marrying have often turned out to be overly optimistic as was shown in previous research.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Mental Health, Third Edition
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1-3
ISBN (Electronic)9780323914987
ISBN (Print)9780323914970
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Demographics
  • Depression
  • Discrimination
  • Divorce
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Happiness
  • Health
  • Life satisfaction
  • Loneliness
  • Marital status
  • Marriage
  • Methodological issues
  • One-person households
  • Relationships
  • Self-esteem
  • Singles
  • Singlism
  • Social roles
  • Social support
  • Solitude
  • Stereotypes
  • Stigma
  • Suicide
  • Values
  • Widowhood
  • Work


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