In legal definitions for interpersonal status, a single person refers to a person who is not in committed relationships, or is not part of a civil union.[1] In common usage, the term single is often used to refer to someone who is not involved in either any type of sexual relationship, romantic relationship, including long-term dating, engagement, marriage, or someone who is "single by choice".[2] Single people may participate in dating and other activities to find a long-term partner or spouse.

Reasons people remain single

People may remain single for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to):

Some single people regard and appreciate solitude as an opportunity. Some people stay single by choice. In addition to choosing singleness as a preferential option, there are also those who forgo marriage due to religious orders that prescribe its forbearance.[1] These religious traditions include:

Single culture in specific countries

United States

According to the United States Bureau of the Census, the fastest-growing household type since the 1980s has been the single person. Previously both socially uncommon and unaccepted due to perceived roles, public awareness, modern socioeconomic factors and increasingly available popular and lengthier education and careers have made the single lifestyle a viable option for many Americans, especially after the Vietnam War.[10]

According to the United States Bureau of the Census, in 2016 single adults counted for over 45% of the US population. 65% of this group had never been married.[11] In 2014, Pew Research Center notes that the highest percentage of never married adults between White, Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans were Black Americans. The same study also projected that about 25% of millennials may not get married.[3]

United Kingdom

Similar to the United States, single-person households have been seen to be increasingly popular in the United Kingdom. In the 2000s, studies found that more citizens were seen to be valuing their career over personal relationships. The increase in single-person households was also partly attributed to the high self-esteem it can offer to some people.[12]


In Japan, it is not uncommon for citizens to choose to remain single. This has been illustrated with many public figures and celebrities. Women typically value friendships over romantic relationships; many continue to have jobs and marry later, or forego marriage completely.[13]

However, people in Japan who do wish to date have reported that it is difficult to find the time to do so due to being overworked.[14]

South Korea

In South Korea an unofficial holiday called Black Day is observed on 14 April each year by and for single people. Singles who did not receive gifts on Valentine's Day or White Day meet dressed in black and eat jajangmyeon, noodles covered in black bean paste. The dish is one of South Korea's national foods, and is considered a comfort food.[15][16][17]


In Stockholm, Sweden, sixty per cent of the people live by themselves.[18]


Terminology for singleness varies, usually based on gender, language, and country. Generally singles can be categorized by the following terms: never married, separated, divorced, and widowed.


Terms used to describe single men are seldom used, and carry positive connotations. Single men are often simply referred to as bachelors.

The English language has more terms for single, unwed women. These terms typically carry a negative connotation. Single women are sometimes called bachelorettes, especially in festive contexts in American English. However, the historic term for unwed women is spinster. The connotations of the word spinster have changed so much over time that it is now considered a derogatory term. The Oxford English Dictionary says in its usage notes for the word:

The development of the word spinster is a good example of the way in which a word acquires strong connotations to the extent that it can no longer be used in a neutral sense. From the 17th century the word was appended to names as the official legal description of an unmarried woman: Elizabeth Harris of London, Spinster. This type of use survives today in some legal and religious contexts. In modern everyday English, however, spinster cannot be used to mean simply ‘unmarried woman’; it is now always a derogatory term, referring or alluding to a stereotype of an older woman who is unmarried, childless, prissy, and repressed.[19]

Though spinster has a long history of being negative, there are some authors, such as Katie Bolick, that are trying to change the word's connotation into something positive.[20] Additionally, the phrase Old Maid is used to describe an unmarried women.


Catherinette was a traditional French label for women of 25 years who were still unmarried by the Feast of Saint Catherine.


The term sheng nu is used to describe unmarried women who are in mid to late twenties in China and East Asia.[21]


In Japan, men that have no interest in getting married are called sōshoku(-kei) danshi (草食(系)男子 ) or Herbivore men. This term also describes young men who have lost their "manliness".

Relationship status and health

A person's relationship status can have an effect on their health. People have different perspectives on the ways in which relationship status influences health.

A study in 2000 by the BioMed Central's public health journal covering the anti-depressant use of 3,500 Finnish people found an 80% increased risk of depression for those living alone.[22] A 2022 finding published in the August issue of Frontiers in Psychiatry using 2,056 studies and data from 123,859 participants found that living alone increased the chances of depression by 42%.[23]

Paul Dolan, professor in behavorial science at the London School of Economics, explained that "if you're a woman, don't bother [getting married]", as a study from the American Time Use Survey found that single women live longer and happier lives than married women.[24]

People who support singleness have different opinions on it, pointing out that not all marriages are created equal. Healthy people, with psychological well-being, have happy relationships with their partners. In contrast, unhappy marriages will have the opposite effect, "A bad marriage can make a person feel more isolated than being single"[25] according to sociologist professor Eric Klinenber at New York University.

A study of more than 10,000 adults found that married couples were more likely to gain weight during their process of romantic ventures than singles.[26] In other words, married couples have a higher risk of weight gain that may be large enough to pose a health risk,[25] as reported by Zhenchao Qian, professor of sociology at Ohio State University.


Dating services are an especially targeted and advertised service for singles.[27] The growth of the dating services and dating events industry has been so drastic that the phrase "dating–industrial complex" (reminiscent of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's term "military industrial complex") has been coined to capture the amount of money and manpower devoted to dating services for singles.[28][29]

Singles events have been an area of particular growth in singles-related commerce.[30] Many events are aimed at singles of particular affiliations, interest, or religions.[31] Some of the most strongly attended such events are the Christmas Eve party targeted at young Jewish singles in major cities in North America, particularly the Matzo Ball and its big city competitors.[32] A variety of other religious organizations' singles events are also very popular. However, dating via religious-sponsored singles events has also been criticized for fostering invasion of daters' privacy and undue expectations.[33]

Also there is a Single Supplement that adds extra fees to those traveling alone.

In some countries, particular laws may directly or indirectly disadvantage single persons. In the United States, for example, Social Security widow(er) benefits are only available to those persons who have been previously married, and single people in the United States pay more income taxes than married people. In many countries tour and holiday operators impose a penalty (often as much as 100%) on persons who travel alone.

Older singles are also heavily targeted by marketers, for much the same reasons. They are typically divorcees or widowed, perhaps reconciled to being single for the rest of their lives, and looking to make the most of what remains to them. Their children, if any, will typically be financially independent. They may, or may not, be looking for another relationship. There is a whole industry dedicated to making unsolicited telephone calls to this group in the hope of exploiting the ones who cannot distinguish between the honest and the dishonest.

Depiction in popular culture

Film and television


See also


  1. ^ a b c Koropeckyj-Cox, Tanya (2009), "Singlehood", in Carr, Deborah (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Life Course and Human Development, Later Life, vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, pp. 370–375, retrieved 23 April 2019
  2. ^ a b Kislev, Elyakim (2019). Happy Singlehood: The Rising Acceptance and Celebration of Solo Living. University of California Press.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Record Share of Americans Have Never Married | Pew Research Center". 24 September 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  4. ^ Whitley, Rob (28 September 2017). "Dating with Mental Illness: What Is It Like?". Psychology Today. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  5. ^ DNews (12 January 2010). "China's Gender Gap Leaves Millions of Single Men".
  6. ^ AFP/Discovery News, 12 January, 2010Alex Williams, "The New Math on Campus", New York Times, 5 February 2010
  7. ^ "5 Reasons People Choose to Stay Single". Psychology Today. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  8. ^ DSM-5-TR.
  9. ^ Weckman, George (2005), "Monasticism: An Overview", in Jones, Lindsay (ed.), Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 9 (2nd. ed.), Macmillan Reference USA, pp. 6121–6126, retrieved 23 April 2019
  10. ^ Scott, Jacqueline L.; Treas, Judith; Richards, Martin (2004). The Blackwell companion to the sociology of families. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 377–378. ISBN 978-0-631-22158-6.
  11. ^ Bureau, US Census. "Unmarried and Single Americans Week: Sept. 17-23, 2017". Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Single living is the new way to find happiness". Times Online. 3 August 2005. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  13. ^ Schefft, J (2007). Better Single Than Sorry. Harper Collins. p. 12.
  14. ^ Semuels, Alana (20 July 2017). "The Mystery of Why Japanese People Are Having So Few Babies". The Atlantic. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  15. ^ Smith, Annabelle (13 February 2013). "Korea's Black Day: When Sad, Single People Get Together And Eat Black Food". Smithsonian. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  16. ^ Robins-Early, Nick. "Alone On Valentine's Day? South Korea Has A Holiday Just For You". HuffPost. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  17. ^ Herskovitz, Jon (14 April 2008). "South Korea's Black Day for love". Reuters. Seoul. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  18. ^ "Flying Solo - Doc Zone". Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  19. ^ "spinster - definition of spinster in English - Oxford Dictionaries". Archived from the original on 20 July 2012.
  20. ^ Bolick, Kate (2015). Spinster : making a life of one's own (First ed.). New York. ISBN 9780385347136. OCLC 902726565.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  21. ^ Lubowiecki-Vikuk, AP (2011). Determinants of recreational and tourism activity among single men and women from the Wielkopolska Province. AWF Poznan. pp. 12–17.
  22. ^ "People living alone 'are more depressed'". BBC News. 23 March 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2023.
  23. ^ Emamzadeh, Arash (27 November 2022). "How Living Alone Increases the Risk of Depression". Psychology Today. Retrieved 4 December 2023.
  24. ^ "Women are happier without children or a spouse, says happiness expert". the Guardian. 25 May 2019.
  25. ^ a b " Health Benefits Of Being Single". Huffpost Healthy Living. 12 February 2013.
  26. ^ " Marriage and men's health" Archived 2014-09-12 at the Wayback Machine. Harvard Health Publications. 10 July 2011.
  27. ^ Jarice Hanson. (2007) 24/7: how cell phones and the Internet change the way we live, work, and play, p. 81
  28. ^ Jane Ganahl. "The downside of cyber-romance", San Francisco Chronicle, 28 March 2004
  29. ^ Roy S. Gutterman. "There's a Science (and Terminology) to the Process of Getting Rejected" Archived 2008-06-21 at the Wayback Machine, The (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent, 3 April 2008
  30. ^ Larry Glanz and Robert H. Phillips. (2003) Guy Gets Girl, Girl Gets Guy: Where to Find Romance and What to Say When You Find It, p. 59
  31. ^ Monica B. Morris. (2005) Falling in love again: the mature woman's guide to finding romantic fulfillment, p. 80
  32. ^ Jessica Gresko, Dec. 24 Becomes Party Night for Jewish Singles[dead link], Associated Press (Washington Post), 24 December 2006
  33. ^ William July, II. (2003) Confessions of an ex-bachelor, p. 113
  34. ^ Single life : unmarried adults in social context. Stein, Peter J., 1937-. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1981. ISBN 0312725965. OCLC 7289383.((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  35. ^ Cobb, Michael L. (2 July 2012). Single : arguments for the uncoupled. New York. ISBN 9780814772560. OCLC 782878106.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  36. ^ Klinenberg, Eric. (2013). Going solo : the extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780143122777. OCLC 825111785.
  37. ^ Traister, Rebecca (March 2016). All the single ladies : unmarried women and the rise of an independent nation (First Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.). New York. ISBN 9781476716565. OCLC 933728312.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)