As an adult woman at the age where many other women are getting married and having children, I often get asked why I’m single, when I will settle down, and why I haven’t started thinking about having kids yet. My response to these (very annoying) questions varies; however, maybe I should start citing this research: Single women without children are the happiest people. (1)
Single Women Without Children Are The Happiest
Happiness and what we need to achieve it is not a new topic of study. This research found that single women without children tend to be the happiest out of all other population sub-groups.
Of course, there are plenty of happy people in all categories – single men, married men, single women, married women, and all of the above with or without children – but these women seem to have nailed it. (1)
According to London School of Economics Behavioral Science Professor Paul Dolan, there are several explanations for this. First, there are the benefits that both men and women receive from a partnership. Men, he says, tend to reap more of them. (1)
When men get married, they tend to settle down and take fewer risks. This allows them to earn more money and live longer, healthier lives. On the other hand, married women have a higher risk for both mental and physical health problems in middle age. (1)
“[t]he healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children.” he says. (1)
Traditional Symbols of Success Don’t Equal Happiness
Many of us were brought up in a society that defined success as having a steady career, marriage, and family. For women, the stress is heavily weighted upon the last two things: A relationship and children.
Dolan points out that the data shows that this traditional model of “success” isn’t actually correlated with happiness and life satisfaction. For women, in particular, relationships and having a family is often more stressful and more work. (1) Still today, in 2021, women do more of the cooking, cleaning, and other “domestic” chores at home. They also tend to do more of the emotional work in a relationship. (2)
“There’s evidence that women spend longer on domestic tasks than men, and I think they also do more emotional work — so they still do more housework and cooking and things as well as more emotional labor,” says University of Essex Professor Emily Grundy. (2)
On top of this, women also tend to have stronger social connections and networks outside of their relationship than their partners. On the other hand, men are more likely to let their wives control their social network and therefore don’t establish such strong social bonds. (2)
Women Are More Selective
It used to be that women couldn’t have anything without a man. They couldn’t have jobs, couldn’t vote, couldn’t own homes, and couldn’t drive. This meant that they relied on two men their entire lives: Their father and then their husbands.
In most countries today, women can do and have all of those things. Women can take care of themselves, so they no longer need a partner. If they want a partner, they can have one, but they are more selective with who they choose. (3)
Today, if a woman is going to be in a relationship, she tends to be more selective of who she chooses. She wants someone who is going to add value, not take away. If they don’t do that, then she doesn’t want them. (3)
Single Women Live Life On Their Terms
Without the responsibility of a relationship or children, single women are free to focus on themselves and what makes them happy. They don’t compromise on their own happiness because they have no one to compromise for. If they want to climb the corporate ladder, they go for it. If they want to quit their job and travel the world, they do have the freedom to choose that.
They can watch the shows they want to watch, go to the events they want to go to, stay in, go out – it’s their choice.
“Certainly there’s a common finding from a lot of studies that women who don’t have a partner tend to do more social activities and more friends compared to women with partners whereas with men it’s the reverse — men without a partner tend to do much less of that,” says Grundy. (2)
Of course, these benefits aren’t exclusive to heterosexual single women. All single people benefit from the lack of responsibility to another person or family. The difference for women is that, for a long time, we weren’t able or allowed to have those benefits.
All of this said, everyone has the capacity to be happy, regardless of relationship and family status. You can be in a healthy, loving relationship with children that supports and fulfills you and be extremely happy in it. You can be single and be perfectly happy staying that way. It all depends on you and what you want for your life.
- “Women who are unmarried and childless are the happiest people of all, according to a professor of behavioral science.” Business Insider. Maya Oppenheim. May 28, 2019.
- “This is why women are happier when they’re single than men.” Insider. Rachel Hosie. November 13, 2017.
- “Am I asking for too much?” The selective single woman as a new social problem.” Science Direct. Kinneret Lahad. September 2013.