However, a psychologist reported that many single people embrace their single lives, and are likely to experience more psychological growth and development than married people, in a presentation at the American Psychological Association's 124th Annual Convention.
"The preoccupation with the perils of loneliness can obscure the profound benefits of solitude," said Bella DePaulo, PhD, a scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "It is time for a more accurate portrayal of single people and single life - one that recognises the real strengths and resilience of people who are single, and what makes their lives so meaningful."
DePaulo cited longitudinal research that shows single people value meaningful work more than married people, and another study that shows single people are also more connected to parents, siblings, friends, neighbours and coworkers. "When people marry, they become more insular," she said.
Scarce research on single people
However, research on single people is lacking, DePaulo claimed. She searched for studies of participants who had never married and, of the 814 studies she found, most did not actually examine single people but used them as a comparison group to learn about married people and marriage in general.
The studies that did focus on single people revealed some telling findings, she said. For example, research comparing people who stayed single with those who stayed married showed that single people have a heightened sense of self-determination and they are more likely to experience "a sense of continued growth and development as a person," DePaulo said.
Another study of lifelong people showed that self-sufficiency serves them well: The more self-sufficient they were, the less likely they were to experience negative emotions. For married people, the opposite was true, according to DePaulo.
Number of single people are on the rise in Asia
In Malaysia, the Population and Housing Census 2010 showed that the population above the age of 25 that were unmarried was comprised of 60.4% men and 38.6% women. Many cite financial problems, no suitable candidates, career building and family commitment as reasons for not getting married.
In Singapore, many in their mid or late 20s are putting their careers ahead of marriage. They make up 70% of the people in their age group last year, a sharp rise from 50% about 15 years ago, the latest General Household Survey shows.
Their decision to delay marriage has hurt the country's fertility rates, and researchers urge that more needs to be done to get them to find partners earlier in life.
University loans and the freedom of singlehood are amongst the reasons cited for delayed marriage. Some find that their career is more rewarding than a life partner.
In Hong Kong, similar reasons were found. Women in Hong Kong have been victims in the longest battle of the sexes for the past three decades. Government statistics show that the number of men per 1,000 women dropped significantly from 1,087 in 1981 to 858 in 2014.
A recent report revealed that last year there were over one million women aged 15 and above who have never been married, versus 962,700 men who had not tied the knot. In terms of statistics, that meant at least 37,300 women who were destined to remain single and this does not include the fact that some out of the 962,700 men are likely to be gay.
Hong Kong women have also been deemed as materialistic and eyeing money. However they may just be happy to be single as they have successful careers as well as a great education; thus they perhaps would not want to settle for less than that. Meanwhile, men who do have all those qualities may still have trouble finding Ms. Right – if their definition skews more towards a non-career driven, stay-at-home image of a wife.
Similar mindsets in the United States
There are more unmarried people than ever before in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. In 2014, there were 124.6 million unmarried Americans over age 16, meaning 50.2% of the nation's adult population identified as single, according to BLS. In contrast, only 37.4% of the population was unmarried in 1976.
Married people should be doing a lot better financially than single people in view of the number of laws that benefit them, DePaulo said, but in many ways, they are not. "People who marry get access to more than 1,000 federal benefits and protections, many of them financial," she said. "Considering all of the financial and cultural advantages people get just because they are married, it becomes even more striking that single people are doing as well as they are."
Despite the advantages of staying single, DePaulo doesn't claim one status is better than the other. "More than ever before, Americans can pursue the ways of living that work best for them. There is no one blueprint for the good life," she said. "What matters is not what everyone else is doing or what other people think we should be doing, but whether we can find the places, the spaces and the people that fit who we really are and allow us to live our best lives." MIMS