Science has been studying single people all wrong. They're not pathetic after all.

I’ve always felt pretty smug about being a ‘smug married’ because so many of my friends are single and say they wish they had my life. What they (and I) don’t realise is that we’ve all been brainwashed.

I’m actually not any happier than they are. If any one group is happy it’s single people who are spending ‘the best years of their lives’ wishing they had the things – marriage, children – movies, dating sites, TV shows books and parents say we should want. Even government benefits favor those who are married, not to mention things like private health insurance.

It’s a big fat myth that goes something like this:

Marriage leaves you feeling happier, healthier and more fulfilled.

Being single means you are miserable, will die earlier and will feel empty forever.

You are not happy. Science has lied to you! Image: This is 40, Universal Pictures

Prominent psychology researcher Bella DePaulo says that's never been true and science needs to start approaching relationship research much differently and more accurately. She wants the myth of 'married happiness' and 'single misery' challenged.

Her comments came ahead of the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Denver.

DePaul says the myth that marriage equates to happiness is perpetuated by every TV show, every movie, every book and everyone's parents and DePaulo said it's time we rethink this way of thinking, starting with properly examining married life and single life and discovering the truth behind the two.

Could it be that when single people say they are perfectly happy being single, we should actually believe them instead of nodding along while feeling pity for them?

When a married person makes a snide remark about the prison that is married life or how annoying their partner is, instead of laughing to lighten the mood should we actually acknowledge their complaint?

What I'd tell my 15-year-old self. Article continues after this video.

Is it possible that single people are actually enjoying the best years of their lives?


The number of single people in the world is increasing thanks to more people choosing not to marry. They are called the "never-marrieds". They've aren't widowed or divorced. They are single by choice.

And possibly quite happy about it.

DePaulo wants science to start pushing back on the cultural focus on getting married in order to achieve happiness and fulfillment.

"We have to make space for the possibility that for some people, single life is their best life," she said.

In Australia one in every four homes is a "lone person" home and according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies this has increased sharply since the seventies. Even in it's own study into single person homes the institute speaks negatively of this state, starting with the use of the phrase "lone person" home instead of "single person" home and terminology such as "living alone" instead of "living as a single".

'Single people are living the best years of their lives.' Image: Roger Sanchez music video for "Another Chance"

The assumption is that living alone means inevitable loneliness. And married people are all happy, and not lonely. They love being married because at least they are not ALONE. Alone is apparently the worst.

There are also more single people in Australia because we are waiting until we are older to settle down.

DePaulo says 'studies' claiming married people are healthier, happier and live longer, are flawed. She says most surveys that compare newly married people to any old single person - windowed, divorced, older. It would be more accurate to compare married people to those who have never been married. That's when she feels the truth will come out.

Controversially, DePaulo says it's actually single people who keep society running smoothly because single people volunteer more, have more time to care for ageing parents and are responsible for organising social events more often than their tired and busy married counterparts. She also argues that single people have more diverse life skills than married people because they have to do everything for themselves such as cooking and cleaning and managing their finances.

"What I think we really need to do is find out much more about what's important to single people, what their lives are like, what they value -- and that gives us a much fuller and fairer picture of the different ways of living a life," she said.