No, single people aren't lonelier than couples

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux: the couple reportedly got married last weekend.

Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux: the couple reportedly got married last weekend. Photo: Getty

After a whole decade of being the object of celebrity mag's concern - and when I say "concern", I mean gleefully yelling "WHY CAN'T JEN GET A BLOKE?" - Jennifer Aniston has finally found a man to "take her on".

We can all breathe just a little easier now that she is safely ensconced in the strong masculine arms of Justin Theroux, wrapped within the institution of matrimony.

And not a moment too soon. Jen's very existence was a threat to the cherished belief that marriage is the only path to female happiness and fulfilment.

It was unthinkable that the actress, with her spectacularly successful career and a reported annual income of $31 million, might have been single by choice.

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No. "Close friends" confirmed that she was staring at a life of living in Lonely Spinster Springs. Population: Jen.

But new research suggests that Spinsterville might not be such a desolate place after all. In the same week that Aniston scored a point for Team Marriage, research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggested that single people aren't the lonely losers they're made out to be.

In fact, after analysing the US National Survey of Families and Households (1992-1994) and the General Social Survey (2000, 2004, 2006, 2012), researchers Natalia Sarkisian and Naomi Gerstel revealed that single people are more likely to have better social lives than smug married couples.

Single people socialise more with friends, neighbours, parents and siblings than their married peers. And both men and women who have never married are also more likely to give and receive help from people in their community.

This is not the first study to challenge the notion that singledom is little more than life's waiting room.

According to social psychologist Bella DePaulo, author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored and Still Live Happily Ever After, "single people… participate in more civic groups and public events, they take more art and music classes, and they are more involved in informal social activities."

Yes, yes, but don't we all need someone to grow old with? 

Nope. A 2008 study published in American Sociological Review found single seniors are also more likely to socialise with friends and neighbours than older married people.

Despite the research, there remains a pervasive fear that single people - particularly if they happen to be female - live lonely, depressing and incomplete lives.

With each passing birthday, the fear of a woman being "left on the shelf" becomes a more pressing concern for friends, parents, aunties and complete strangers everywhere.

Researchers from the University of Toronto and creators of the thoughtfully named 'Fear of Being Single Scale', found that 37 per cent of people fear being single. And this fear has serious consequences.

People who are afraid of being single are "less selective" in their choice of partner. Another name for this phenomenon is called signing up to be a contestant on Channel 10's The Bachelor.

Unsurprisingly, people who fear being single are also much less likely to end a bad relationship. Almost anything is preferable to being single and, before you know it, you're bickering with your partner via passive-aggressive status updates on Facebook.

I'm not anti-marriage by any stretch. In fact, in the interests of full disclosure, I am married and so far so good. But I have to admit that I did have a more active social life pre-marriage and before kids. Both marriage and children limit the time and energy available for socialising. And if, for whatever reason, I stopped enjoying my husband's company then I'm pretty sure I would get very lonely, very fast.

And now that Jen's gone and got hitched I wouldn't be able to console myself with all the stories about her miserable spinsterhood. 

Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of Thirty-Something And Over It.