Are you happier alone?
Time and time again researchers produce evidence showing that being in a relationship brings happiness, better health and stability to most people. In fact the results tend to suggest that the risk of premature death is reduced. Importantly, however, relationships have to be loving, caring and supportive. An unhappy relationship can cause stress and poor health.
At the same time, surveys suggest that the health risks from being alone or isolated are comparable to the life-shortening risks associated with cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. So is there any good news if you are single and perhaps prefer to be alone?
According to the Office for National Statistics (2011 statistics) more than half (51 per cent) of the population in England and Wales over the age of 16 are unmarried. These statistics do not include those who are in committed, non-registered relationships. Even so there are quite few people in the UK who are single and, of these, there is a significant number who don’t want to in a long-term relationship.
Do all these survey results mean that everyone should somehow look for a happy relationship? Human by nature are gregarious and like company. But for some a relationship may be bad for them. Research, just released from New Zealand, shows that for a subsection of the singles population being single could be better for them.
The survey of more than 4,000 people found that those people who dislike arguments and do everything they can do to avoid upset are as contented being single as those in a supportive relationship.
The researcher, Yuthika Girme from the University of Auckland, found that those people who avoid drama in their lives are happier being single. For them not being in a relationship removes the anxiety they feel associated with relationship conflicts. Conversely, she also found that those who do not fear conflict are happier in relationships.
So for some people being in a relationship might not be the healthiest option. The challenge they may face, however, is society’s judgement around their single status. There is still a lot of pressure to be in a relationship whatever age you are. But if those, who want to be single, learn to accept themselves as they are this may not be a problem. They possess good self belief and can deal with others' judgements.
Others may have difficulties dealing with pressure from family and friends because being married, or in a committed relationship, is seen by many as ‘natural’. Working with a therapist may help those who want to be single tackle those pressures in a healthy way.
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About Owen Redahan
Owen works with individuals and couples. He focuses mainly on issues around self-esteem, relationships, sexual addiction and work problems using CBT and person focused therapies.
He holds a diploma in Counselling and is Vice Chair of ATSAC (the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity). He is based in Canary Wharf (E14).