Being Single Was Just a Part of Their Lives Before the Pandemic. Then It Became the Defining One by B. Luscombe
[Article opens with interviews with single adults who are living alone in the Covid pandemic]
….At the dawn of 2020, about a quarter of American households were made up of people who lived alone. According to the U.S. Census, the number of households consisting of only one person has jumped 10% in the past 20 years to an all-time high of 28.4% in 2019.
Partly this is because people are marrying later in life (the average age of first marriage is nearing 30).
And partly, sociologists believe, it has to do with money. Wealthy countries generally have a higher proportion of people who can afford to live solo. At the same time, many people don’t want to get married and raise families until they feel financially secure. In 2017, 14% of Americans told Pew Research they had no interest in getting married.
While there’s still pressure to pair up, the notion of the sad unpartnered soul has largely been banished. Single people are no longer denied such societal goodies as a full social calendar, an active sex life or a home of their own. …
The pandemic changed all that. It amped up the things that are lonely and stressful about being single and muffled the fun stuff.
…But even with the Internet’s distractions, many single people have had more solitude in the past year than they know what to do with. As the months passed, what was once a feature of their lives became the dominant force.
…those who don’t live with anyone tell TIME they have had a reckoning with themselves, their choices and the direction of their lives. We spoke to five of the more than 35 million Americans who live alone, in their 20s to their 50s, in the fall and again in the spring.
Some have moved, many have started therapy or taking medication, some have recommitted to finding a companion, prioritizing their social lives or strengthening bonds with family. While being single is not a uniform experience, their stories share several themes: Being single is quite different from being alone.
….This would not be surprising to those who study social isolation. Loneliness has long been believed to increase people’s vulnerability to such mental disorders as depression, anxiety, chronic stress, insomnia and even dementia. After a lockdown in Hong Kong, an August 2020 study there found that two-thirds of respondents to a questionnaire reported clinical levels of depression, anxiety or stress, and more than a fifth showed signs of psychosis risk. A July 2020 study out of Israel found that older people were no more likely than normal to be depressed or anxious during the pandemic–unless they were lonely.
….None of the single people blame their married friends for not checking in on them more; they have sympathy for the grind of homeschooling or never seeing anyone but your partner. “My married friends with kids are saying, ‘Yeah, my wife and kids are driving me nuts. You’re so lucky you just get to sit there and play video games,’” says Pritchow. “And I’m like, ‘Hey, at least you got people to talk to.’”
….Anguiano says she’s been surprised by who among her friends has looked out for her and who has disappeared. “I try not to take it personally,” she says. “I don’t know what they’re going through.”
…In ways both big and small, the pandemic has given these five single people ample time to reflect not just on how they got to where they are but on what direction they want their lives to go. The long months on their own sparked in most of them a realization that although living alone had its merits, they didn’t want to do it forever.