In recent history, there have never been as many unmarried adults as there are right now, and demographically, single people are more powerful than ever before.
The 2017 Census Bureau reported that a record number of adults in the U.S. were not married.
More than 110 million residents were divorced or widowed or had always been single; that’s more than 45% of all Americans aged 18 or older. And people who did marry were taking longer than ever to get there.
The median age of first marriage rose to 29.5 for men; for women, it reached 27.4. And these trends are likely to continue. In fact, a report from the Pew Research Center a few years ago predicted that by the time today’s young adults reach the age of 50, about one in four of them will have been single all their life.
Do you have trouble cohabitating? You’re not alone.
Living solo is becoming more popular.
Last summer, the Canadian press was in a frenzy over news that for the first time in the nation’s history, more people were living in one-person households than in any other arrangement. In the U.S., the number of people living without a spouse or partner rose to 42% last year, up from 39% just a decade ago.
And if you’re thinking this is a Western phenomenon – think again.
Individualistic practices like living alone have gone global. Psychology researcher Henri C. Santos and his colleagues analyzed a half-century of data (1960-2011) from 78 nations around the world and found that the popularity of such practices grew significantly for 83% of the countries with relevant data.
Individualistic beliefs, like valuing friends more than family, have also been on the rise, increasing significantly for 79% of the nations across the five decades.
Marriage Does Not Equal Adulting
A half-century ago, Americans who had not yet married wouldn’t be considered real adults.
That’s no longer the case.
According to a 2017 Census Bureau report, more than 55% of the participants in a nationally representative sample negated the idea that marriage is a necessary capstone for adulthood. This mirrors current mentalities surrounding parenthood and child-rearing.
New emphasis has been placed on completing higher education and reaching employment goals. This emphasis has been self-reported by at least 95% of the population.
High-school students don’t date – or have sex. At least not as much as we thought.
Psychologists Jean M. Twenge and Heejung Park published a study last fall combing through data collected over the course of forty years (1976-2016) concerning the sex and dating outlooks reported by students in grades 9 through 12. The dataset was made up of over 8 million students. More recent years showed fewer students who had been on a date or had sex than earlier years.
Married people have sex less than single people.
Adults are reportedly having sex less frequently before, as well. A survey that analyzed data collected between over 26,000 individuals between 1989 and 2014 discovered that the average person has sex nine times less frequently than the average person in the 1990s.
There were some groups with exceptionally changing sexual patterns. The dip in sexual activity is most notable in people who are married or divorced. These individuals are even less likely to be sexually active than those who have been single for their entire lives. In fact, a certain perspective allows for one to believe that singles have sex more than married individuals at this point.
There are, of course, some people who simply abstain from sex completely. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), which got its legs in 2001, has spearheaded efforts at giving visibility to asexual individuals who simply do not experience sexual attraction. In 2017, a large-scale study mobilized the Archives of Sexual Behavior to publish a review article on asexuality. In the article, authors Lori A. Brotto and Morag Yule helped to dispel skepticism surrounding asexuality as a valid sexual orientation. It turns out, up to 3% of adults identify as asexual.
Self-esteem no longer improved by a relationship
In a landmark study on the link between romantic relationships and self-esteem, researchers Eva C. Luciano and Ulrich Orth studied more than 9,000 adults in Germany as they entered or ended romantic relationships or stayed single. Their findings?
“Beginning a relationship improves self-esteem if and only if the relationship is well-functioning, stable, and holds at least for a certain period (in the present research … one year or longer).”
People who started new romantic relationships that failed to last a year ended up with lower self-esteem than the people who stayed single. There was nothing magical about marriage, either; people who married enjoyed no better self-esteem than those who stayed in romantic relationships without tying the knot.
So – where are all my single ladies (and men)? You’re not alone, and in fact, you’re on the right path!
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