The Scientific Study of People Who Are Single:
An Annotated Bibliography

Bella M. DePaulo
Chair, Academic Advisory Board of the Spectrum Institute
Research and Policy Division of the
American Association for Single People (AASP)

January 2, 2004


8. Health, Happiness, Loneliness, and Solitude

Health and Happiness

One of the most extensive psychological and sociological literatures relevant to people who are single is study of the relative health and happiness of married and single people. The long list of references in this section is not exhaustive. Outcomes of interest are extensive and include (among others) mental health, physical health, longevity, suicide, happiness, life-satisfaction, and well-being. This literature has been developed primarily by scholars interested in marriage. Those who have found differences in health or happiness across different civil statuses often pose the question of whether marriage "causes" those differences or whether different kinds of people are "selected" into marriage in the first place. Rarely is a stigma hypothesis entertained–i.e., that married and single people are differentially valued in society. The question as to whether there are differences in health or well-being across civil statuses has generated a number of answers, and most are still contested. The proposed answers include: (1) Marriage seems to benefit men but may not benefit women. (2) It is not marriage that matters but consistency; people who have always been single fare just as well as people who have always been married, and both do better than those who have been divorced or widowed. (3) Differences between married and single people are decreasing over time. (4) The degree to which marriage matters differs across cultures. (5) People have their own characteristic levels of happiness; marriage may be associated with a brief blip in happiness but happiness will then return to its characteristic level. (6) Just as it can be misleading to lump together all single people, so too can it be misleading to do the same with married people; women in particular may be especially responsive to the quality of the marriage.


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Baumeister, R. F. (1990). Suicide as escape from self. Psychological Review, 97, 90-113.

Beach, S. R., Schulz, R., Yee, J. L., & Jackson, S. (2000). Negative and positive health effects of caring for a disabled spouse: Longitudinal findings from the Caregiver Health Effects Study. Psychology and Aging, 15, 259-271.

Bernard, J. (1972). The future of marriage. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Breslow, L., & Enstrom, J. E. (1980). Persistence of health habits and their relationship to mortality. Preventive Medicine, 9, 469-483.

Busselen, H. J., Jr., & Busselen, C. K. (1975, July). Adjustment differences between married and single undergraduate university students: An historical perspective. The Family Coordinator, 281-287.

Coombs, R. H. (1991). Marital status and personal well-being: A literature review. Family Relations, 40, 97-102.

Costello, E. J. (1991). Married with children: Predictors of mental and physical health in middle-aged women. Psychiatry, 54, 292-305.

Davies, L. (1995). A closer look at gender and distress among the never married. Women & Health, 23 (2), 13-31.

Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13, 81-84.

Diener, E., & Suh,M. E. (1997). Measuring quality of life: Economic, social, and subjective indicators. Social Research, 40, 189-216.

Diener, E., & Suh,M. E. (1998). Subjective well-being and age: An international analysis. Annual review of gerontology and geriatrics, 17, 304-324.

Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276-302.

Durkheim, E. (1963). (Originally published 1897.) Suicide: A study in sociology. NY: The Free Press.

Friedan, B. (1963). The feminine mystique. NY: Norton.

Geerken, M., & Gove, W. R. (1974). Race, sex, and marital status: Their effect on mortality. Social Problems, 21, 567-580.

Giarrusso, R., Feng, D., Silverstein, M., & Bengtson, V. L. (2000). Self in the context of the family. In K. W. Schaie & J. Hendricks (Eds.), The evolution of the aging self (pp. 63-97). NY: Springer.

Glenn, N. D. (1975). The contribution of marriage to the psychological well-being of males and females. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 37, 594-600.

Glenn, N. D., & Weaver, C. N. (1988). The changing relationship of marital status to reported happiness. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 50, 317-324.

Gluhoski, V. L., Siegel, K., & Gorey, E. (1997). Unique stressors experienced by unmarried women with breast cancer. Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, 15, 173-183.

Goodwin, J. S., Hunt, W. C., Key, C. R., & Samet, J. M. (1987). The effect of marital status on stage, treatment, and survival of cancer patients. JAMA, 258, 3125-3130.

Goodwin, P. Y. (2003). African American and European American women’s marital well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 550-560.

Gotlib, I. H., & McCabe, S. B. (1990). Marriage and psychopathology. In F. D. Fincham & T. N. Bradbury (Eds.), The psychology of marriage: Basic issues and applications (pp. 226-257). NY: Guilford.

Gotlib, I. H., Lewinsohn, P. M., & Seeley, J. R. (1998). Consequences of depression during adolescence: Marital status and marital functioning in early adulthood. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 107, 686-690.

Gove, W. R., Hughes, M., & Style, C. B. (1983). Does marriage have positive effects on the psychological well-being of the individual? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 122-131.

Gove, W. R., & Shin, H. (1989). The psychological well-being of divorced and widowed men and women. Journal of Family Issues, 10, 122-144.

Gove, W. R., Style, C. B., & Hughes, M.(1990). The effect of marriage on the well-being of adults: A theoretical analysis. Journal of Family Issues, 11, 4-35.

Greenberger, E., & O’Neil, R. (1993). Spouse, parent, worker: Role commitments and role-related experiences in the construction of adults’ well-being. Developmental Psychology, 29, 181-197.

Haring-Hidore, M., Stock, W. A., Okun, M. A., & Witter, R. A. (1985). Marital status and subjective well-being: A research synthesis. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47, 947-953.

Heaton, T. B., & Albrecht, S. L. (1991). Stable unhappy marriages. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 747-758.

Helgeson, V. S. (2002). The psychology of gender. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. (Chapter 10: Relationships and health.)

Hendrix, L. (1997). Quality and equality in marriage: A cross-cultural view. Cross-Cultural Research, 31, 201-225.

Hope, S., Rodgers, B., & Power, C. (1999). Marital status transitions and psychological distress: Longitudinal evidence from a national population sample. Psychological Medicine, 29, 381-389.

Inglehart, R. (1990). Culture shift in advanced industrial society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Includes happiness reports from many nations.)

Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

Keith, V. M. (1997). Life stress and psychological well-being among married and unmarried blacks. In R. J. Taylor, J. S. Jackson, & L. M. Chatters (Eds.), Family life in black America (pp. 95-116). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Kessler, R. C., & Essex, M. (1982). Marital status and depression: The importance of coping resources. Social Forces, 61, 484-507.

Kielcolt-Glaser, J. K., Fisher, L. D., Ogrocki, P., Stout, J. C., Speicher, C. E., & Glaser, R. (1987). Marital quality, marital disruption, and immune function. Psychosomatic Medicine, 49, 13-34.

King, L. A. (1993). Emotional expression, ambivalence over expression, and marital satisfaction. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 10, 601-607.

Knupfer, G., Clark, W., & Room, R. (1966). The mental health of the unmarried. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 122, 841-851.

Kulik, J. A., & Mahler, H. I. M. (1989). Social support and recovery from surgery. Health Psychology, 8, 221-238.

Kurdek, L. A. (1991). The relations between reported well-being and divorce history, availability of a proximate adult, and gender. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 71-78.

Lee, G. R., Secombe, K., & Shehan, C. L. (1991). Marital status and personal happiness: An analysis of trend data. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 839-844.

Levenson, R. W., Carstensen, L. L., & Gottman, J. M. (1993). Long-term marriage: Age, gender, and satisfaction. Psychology and Aging, 8, 301-313.

Lillard, L. A., Constantijn, & Panis. (1996). Marital status and mortality: The role of health. Demography, 33, 313-327.

Litman, R. E. (1987). Mental disorders and suicidal intention. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 17, 85-132.

Lucas, R. E., Clark, A. E., Georgellis, Y., & Diener, E. (2003). Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 527-539.

Marks, N. F. (1996). Flying solo at midlife: Gender, marital status, and psychological well-being.

Journal of Marriage and the Family, 58, 917-932.

Mastekaasa, A. (1992). Marriage and psychological well-being: Some evidence on selection into marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54, 901-911.

Mastekaasa, A. (1993). Marital status and subjective well-being: A changing relationship? Social Indicators Research, 29, 249-276.

Mastekaasa, A. (1994). Psychological well-being and marital dissolution. Journal of Family Issues, 15, 208-228.

Mastekaasa, A. (1994). The subjective well-being of the previously married: The importance of unmarried cohabitation and time since widowhood or divorce. Social Forces, 73, 665-692.

Mastekaasa, A. (1995). Age variations in the suicide rates and self-reported subjective well-being of married and never married persons. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 5, 21-39.

Murray, J. E. (2000). Marital protection and marital selection: Evidence from a historical-prospective sample of American men. Demography, 37, 511-521.

Myers, J. K., Lindenthal, J. J., & Pepper, M. P. (1974). Life events and psychiatric symptomatology. Life History Research in Psychopathology, 3, 212-229.

Newman, J. P. (1986). Gender, life strains, and depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 27, 161-178.

Oh, H. J. (2001). An exploration of the influence of household poverty spells on mortality risk. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63, 224-234.

Okun, M. A., Stock, W. A., Haring, M. J., & Witter, R. A. (1984). Health and subjective well-being: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 19, 111-132.

Pearlin, L. I., & Johnson, J. S. (1977). Marital status, life strains, and depression. American Sociological Review, 42, 704-715.

Renne, K. S. (1971). Health and marital experience in an urban population. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 33, 338-350.

Riechert, A., Maurer, K., Loffler, W., Fatkenheuer, G., Heiden, W., & Hafner, H. (1989). Schizophrenia: a disease of young single males. European Archives of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences, 239, 210-212.

Robertson, N. C. (1974). The relationship between marital status and the risk of psychiatric referral. British Journal of Psychiatry, 124, 191-202.

Rogers, S. J., & DeBoer, D. D. (2001). Changes in wives’ income: Effects on marital happiness, psychological well-being, and the risk of divorce. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63, 458-472.

Ross, C. E., & Mirowsky, J. (1989). Explaining the social patterns of depression: Control and problem solving–or support and talking? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 30, 206-219.

Rossow, I. (1993). Suicide, alcohol, and divorce; aspects of gender and family integration. Addiction, 88, 1659-1665.

Somers, A. R. (1981). Marital status, health, and the use of health services: An old relationship revisited. In P. J. Stein (Ed.), Single Life: Unmarried Adults in Social Context (pp. 178-190). New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Suh, E., Diener, E., & Fujita, F. (1996). Events and subjective well-being: Only recent events matter. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 1091-1102.

Suh, E., Diener, E., Oishi, S., & Triandis, H. C. (1998). The shifting basis of life satisfaction judgments across cultures: Emotions versus norms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 482-493.

Thiesen, N. L., & Cooley, B.B. (1979). The psychological adjustment of the single male adults compared with married males and single and married females ages 25-34. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 7, 202-211.

Thoits, P. A. (1986). Multiple identities: Examining gender and marital status differences in distress. American Sociological Review, 51, 259-272.

Thoits, P. A. (1992). Identity structures and psychological well-being: Gender and marital status comparisons. Social Psychology Quarterly, 55, 236-256.

Tower, R. B., & Kasl, S. V. (1996). Depressive symptoms across older spouses: Longitudinal influences. Psychology and Aging, 11, 683-697.

Tucker, J. S., Friedman, H. S., Wingard, D. L., & Schwartz, J. E. (1996). Marital history at midlife as a predictor of longevity: Alternative explanations to the protective effect of marriage. Health Psychology, 15, 94-101.

Tucker, J. S., Schwartz, J. E., Clark, K. M., & Friedman, H. S. (1999). Age-related changes in the associations of social network ties with mortality risk. Psychology and Aging, 4, 564-571.

Turner, R. J., Wheaton, B., & Lloyd, D. A. (1995). The epidemiology of social stress. American Sociological Review, 60, 104-125.

Umberson, D., & Chen, M. D. (1994). Effects of a parent’s death on adult children: Relationship salience and reactions to loss. American Sociological Review, 59, 152-168. (Looks at civil status of the adult child as a predictor of reaction to parent’s death.)

van Poppel, F., & Day, L. H. (1996). A test of Durkheim’s theory of suicide–without committing the "ecological fallacy." American Sociological Review, 61, 500-507.

Veenhoven, R. (1983). The growing impact of marriage. Social Indicators Research, 12, 49-63.

Verbrugge, L. M. (1979). Marital status and health. Journal of Marriage and the Family, May, 267-285.

Waite, L. J. (1995). Does marriage matter? Demography, 32, 483-507.

Whiffen, V. E., & Gotlib, I. H. (1989). Stress and coping in maritally distressed and nondistressed couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 6, 327-344.

White, J. M. (1992). Marital status and well-being in Canada: An analysis of age group variations. Journal of Family Issues, 13, 390-409.

Wood, W., Rhodes, N., Whelan, M. (1989). Sex differences in positive well-being: A consideration of emotional style and marital status. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 249-264.

Wu, X., & DeMaris, A. (1996). Gender and marital status differences in depression: The effects of chronic strains. Sex Roles, 34, 299-319.


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