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Study: Older Single Women Happy and Socially Productive


Older single women are satisfied with their lives and are socially productive, a new study reports. The researchers also found singleness runs in families.

The study involved 24 never-married heterosexual women from across the United States. The mostly white women had a median age of 46 years and earned more than $35,000 annually.

Participants responded to a questionnaire, which asked about their values, family role models, personal accomplishments, work, life satisfaction, social networks, and events that contributed to their singleness.

The researchers also asked respondents about criteria for a husband, social pressures to marry, and the reasons to marry now.

The study, led by Tandace McDill of the University of Guadalajara, appeared in the Journal of Women & Aging, Vol. 18 (3) 2006.

Life Satisfaction

A high percentage of the women (81 per cent) said they were satisfied with their lives. Similarly, 80 per cent report personal growth and freedom as a result of their single status. The women scored average or high on standardized tests for self-esteem.

McDill’s group found the women create their own "family structures" as adults. A substantial percentage indicate they most value friends (48 per cent) and family (52 per cent). They see fostering relationships as an important part of aging well. The women often attribute their singleness to "having not met the right person."

Social Productivity

More than half of the group (57 per cent) view independence and a successful career as accomplishments. They report that career success, ability to travel, and personal growth contribute to their feelings of happiness.

Most of the women (65 per cent) suffered no societal stigma as a result of their single status. "This may be due to their own positive attitude toward their singleness," the researchers noted.

Singleness Runs in Families

A high percentage (85 per cent) of the women grew up with a strong, positive female role model in their families, often the mother. As well, the women often have siblings or other single relatives – for example, 42 per cent had siblings who never married, and 42 per cent grew up with only one parent.

Despite the reports of life satisfaction, more than half of the women (76 per cent) said they would consider marriage now for companionship, financial support, and being in another closer relationship. But 62 per cent feared the loss of freedom and independence if they married.

The researchers conclude: ". . . marriage may not be as vital to women’s overall life satisfaction as previously perceived."