The social organization of our world is changing. People are getting married later in their lives. Unions between couples are not always in traditional marriages, but increasingly as cohabitation, with or without children. A significant amount of marriages dissolve and we are left wondering about how to cope and be of sound mind and mood. Past and recent social psychological studies typically conclude that being married and or cohabiting is better for your health than being single. In my article, I will give my impression of how to reconcile the research findings with your personal state of affairs.

How is the State of the Union?

When studies investigate the well-being of married or cohabiting couples, they conclude that overall there is a better state of health than the health status of being single. One point of distinction, however, is that this holds true primarily for those in good-quality unions, and not for poor-quality unions. According to a recent Australian community survey, researchers concluded that only good-quality relationships bestowed mental health benefits over remaining single, and that for women, being in a poor-quality relationship was associated with greater levels of anxiety than being single.

Whether you are in a relationship or you are single, as a family-focused naturopathic doctor, I recommend that you take the time to take care of your personal health. In a marriage, don’t forget about yourself: allow for time for engaging in activities to strengthen your body and mind and spirit. If you are single, make sure to do the same, as well as to engage with friends and family, since the more you interact with others, the better your state of mind and mood will be.

Cognitive Benefits

2012 research from the Centre for Health and Medical Psychology in Orebro University in Sweden found that married people showed significantly better memory performances than single people in episodic memory. Episodic memory is our ability to recall past events, about what happened when and where; it is the most fragile kind of memory that is the first to be lost in those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of neurodegenerative diseases of the brain. This study occurred over the course of five years, in two age groups: 35-60, and 65-85.

It is likely that by being in a marriage allows for constant cognitive interactions which helped preserve and strengthen memory. If you are single, there may still be hope. A 2012 study published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology found that sedentary men aged 50-74 improved their episodic memory by taking a multivitamin, mineral, and herbal supplement. The study tracked the change in memory over the course of just eight weeks. Before starting nutritional and herbal supplements, it’s a good idea to see a naturopathic doctor and herbalist for guidance.

What does Being Single Mean?

There are three categories of single nowadays: perpetually single, divorced, and widowed. Overall, research shows additional health benefits of the perpetual single over the mental health consequences of getting divorced or becoming widowed. These comparisons are more complex since there are multiple factors to consider: children, financial planning, health insurance costs, tax benefits, etc. Ultimately, the challenge of being single remains the same: how do you live and interact with yourself, your family, and community, yet live alone in your own microcosm. Two underlying points of importance are: one, maintaining or developing supports – typically friends and or family and faith-related; and two, developing interests and hobbies to live a meaningfully engaged life.

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