Why Are You Single?


With recent reports predicting that one in four young adults will be single their whole life by the age of 50, you may be wondering if you will always be Netflix and chilling by yourself. But is there a scientific reason why you are single?

The first thing we may have to blame for our forever-alone status is our parents and, more specifically, the effect they have on our attachment style. Psychologists describe attachment styles as the ways we interact in our relationships. Attachment styles are first built during infancy, and what style you’ll end up with is the result of the parenting you got as a child.

If you were consistently cared for and had strong emotional support, you likely developed a secure attachment style, which means today you are confident, trusting, and can comfortably develop intimacy with others. If you were less consistently cared for, with parental figures who varied between being overprotective and inattentive, then you may have developed one of two insecure attachment styles: an avoidant style, where you have little desire to seek other people out; or an anxious-ambivalent style, where you fear rejection.  

Psychologists have long posited that single people are more likely to have an insecure attachment style. While that may be partly true, recent research has shown that single participants are just as likely as coupled people to have a secure attachment style, but are more likely to attach to friends, siblings, or relatives over romantic figures. In that case, you may be getting fulfillment from other people and may not require a romantic figure to satisfy emotional needs.

Another answer as to why you’re flying solo may lie in your genes, specifically the genes that express your serotonin receptors. One study of 580 young adults found that 50.4% of people with a CC genotype on their 5-HT1A gene were in a relationship, but only 39% with a CG or GG genotype were in a relationship.

Notice the G allele may be the culprit here. Having the G allele means you’ll have a lower level of serotonin in your brain. And studies have found rats and monkeys with lower levels of serotonin are less sexually receptive and more aggressive to mates. Other studies have also linked this G allele to alexithymic symptoms—which is, a difficulty in describing and identifying emotions, which may result in G allele-ers appearing unempathetic, cold, or hostile.  

But is the married life really better for you? While many studies have linked being married to having better health, some have pointed out these studies often exclude divorced people from their samples. One study found women who got married gained more weight and drank more than single women who also ate better and exercised more. Another study found single individuals were more likely to have greater involvement in the broader community and were more likely to stay in touch with family, neighbors, or friends.

It may also be important not to rush into a relationship. One long-term study of young adults found that a relationship can improve your self-esteem only if it is well-functioning, stable, and lasts for about a year or longer. Failing this criteria, a low-quality relationship might give you a lower self-esteem and a severe blow to your emotions. All in all, the science says it’s best not to rush into something unhealthy, and that sometimes the single life is the best way to go.

Mitch Moffit