Challenging the convention that there’s something wrong with anyone who isn’t married by the time he or she is 40, a new study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggests that over−40 singles are just as well−adjusted as their married counterparts – in most ways, anyway.
Jamila Bookwala and her team analyzed data from more than 1,500 individuals (ages 40−74) taking part in the National Survey of Midlife Development. Of the participants, 105 had never been married, while the rest said they were married. Bookwala compared the never−married individuals to the married individuals in several ways.
The researchers found a particularly strong correlation in the never−married group – the higher these individuals scored on the psychological resources measure, the better their emotional well−being.
“If you look at never−marrieds who are high on mastery — they feel like they are in the driver's seat and in control of their lives — and high on self−sufficiency — they know how to take care of themselves — they actually have better emotional well−being than married people,” says Bookwala, a professor of psychology at Lafayette College.
“In that sense, we find our study debunks that myth of something being wrong with the never−married individual,” said Bookwala.
Unfortunately, the study did find a couple of drawbacks to never having been married. The individuals in this group scored lower in overall emotional well−being, and also had fewer social resources – says Bookwala, "[i]n general they tend to report less [perceived] support from families than marrieds.”
She adds that people who are highly self−sufficient may actually be at a disadvantage when it comes to marriage: "[f]or a marriage to work well, you need a certain amount of interdependence.” This may be why some people choose to remain single for the long term – and according to the study, they may be just as happy as the married folks.