The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Alone, Dissatisfied with Life—and Sick

Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King

At a time when marriage rates plumb new lows and the number of Americans living alone skyrockets, it can hardly come as good news when researchers adduce new evidence that living alone fosters dissatisfaction with life and leads to poor health. But such evidence is inescapable in a study recently published by a large team of scholars from universities and hospitals in Finland.

In an effort to better understand the “association between mental health and biological processes,” the researchers parse data collected from 427 men and women, a sub-sample of 3,004 study participants randomly selected in 1998 from Finland’s National Population Register. In their final statistical analysis, the researchers discern a strong statistical linkage between “long-term life dissatisfaction” and marital status, with those living alone significantly more likely to express dissatisfaction with their lives than peers living with a spouse (p = 0.001). Recognizing “subjective well-being [as] one of the main dimensions of good mental health,” the researchers emphasize the importance of mental health in determining physical health. Thus, in “self-reported life dissatisfaction” the researchers see “an indicator of long-term health hazards, i.e. increased mortality, including suicides and unintentional injuries, work disability, and diseases such as coronary heart disease.”

The researchers note that “the long-term life dissatisfaction burden may compromise somatic health in various ways,” notably by impairing the quality of sleep and by increasing the likelihood of smoking among those who bear that burden.

The researchers are surely justified in asserting that their findings “should increase the knowledge available to the physician in preventing adverse somatic consequences among those with low subjective well-being.”  But their findings also provide new motivation to public officials for fostering marriage and reducing singleness.

(Teemu Rissanen et al., “Biological and Other Health-Related Correlates 

of Long-Term Life Dissatisfaction Burden,” BMC Psychiatry 13 [2013]: 202, Web.)