Does Being Single Mean Being Lonely?

We often take it for granted that being in a romantic relationship is a good thing and that being single means being relatively lonely. Culturally, the common message seems to be that having a long-term romantic partner is preferable, and that being single means being alone. So does the science back this idea up?

To a degree, yes, but with some caveats. It turns out that the context of why someone is single and what the rest of their life is like makes a difference.

For example, a recent study done by a researcher in Poland found that among young adults, whether they’re single by choice matters in predicting how lonely they are.

As you might guess, young adults who were single voluntarily reported lower levels of romantic loneliness compared with those who were single involuntarily. That said, those who were voluntarily single still reported higher rates of romantic loneliness than those who had partners. And when it came to other aspects of mental health like risk for anxiety and depression, whether people were single voluntarily or involuntarily didn’t make a difference.

Other factors in people’s lives also influence how they react to being single. For instance, previous work by the same researcher suggests that people who report receiving more support from their families experience less romantic loneliness when they go for long stretches of time without romantic partners. In other words, receiving social support through other types of close relationships could mitigate some of the effects of being single.

Realistically, being single does appear to take a toll on mental health on average, at least among young adults. Another study – again, led by the same researcher – found that young adults who were single reported having lower emotional well-being.

However, it also looks like multiple different factors, including whether one is single by choice and what kind of other social support one has, influence how one responds psychologically to singlehood. No doubt finding that special someone can give your mental health a boost, but from a mental health perspective, it also looks like not finding that special someone isn’t the end of the world.

Image: Flickr/burstingwithcolors


  1. user on December 10, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    This makes a lot of sense and definitely true. Being single can be a choice for some but for others it may be a high active lifestyle that doesn’t allow them to adequately choose a partner. Cultural factors play a big part as well when choosing a partner, therefore sometimes becoming stressful.

    • Neil Petersen on December 11, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Absolutely. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Mark on December 2, 2019 at 5:57 am

    Well if you’re very blessed and lucky enough to find love with the right person , instead of the wrong person which then it is well worth it. Most women today are nothing at all like the past when most women back then were very old fashioned and real ladies, which made love very easy to find in those days for any man that was really looking for it. Today most women want the very best of all, and will never settle for less which is why many of us good single men can’t really find love today unfortunately. Women have choices now, which is why finding love was very easy in those days the way our family members did since most women Accepted their men for who they were. Now with so many women that have their careers today making a six figure salary, most women are now very high maintenance, independent, selfish, greedy, spoiled, picky, think they’re so very high and mighty now, narcissists, gold diggers since many of these women just want the very rich man instead, and very very money hungry these days altogether as well. Well i would say that this is a very big change in the women today compared to the past when most women didn’t have much at all in those days. Now women today will only want the very best of all, and will never ever settle for less. It is just too very bad that many of us men that are looking for love today, which if we had been born in those days even many of us today would’ve been definitely all settled down with our own family that many of us still don’t have today.