Thank u, next: being single is the new normal

So grateful: Ariana Grande’s new song has broken single-day streaming records on Spotify twice.

Is that better than being in a couple? Ariana Grande’s new ode to singledom is number one in the UK. Meanwhile, people around the world spent record amounts on Sunday — aka “Singles Day”.

It has been just under a month since Ariana Grande broke off her whirlwind engagement with comedian Pete Davidson. But on her new single (now top of the UK’s official charts), she sings that she has met someone new: “I know they say I move on too fast / But this one gon’ last / Cause her name is Ari / And I’m so good with that.”

She is not the only one embracing single life. On Sunday, shoppers spent a record $1 billion (£778,000) in just 85 seconds as part of the Chinese company Alibaba’s “Singles Day” sales.

Singles Day began in China as an anti-Valentine’s holiday for the unattached in the 1990s. It is celebrated on 11/11; the numbers represent single people.

Since 2009, it has been adopted by Alibaba as a shopping day similar to Black Friday or Cyber Monday — only much, much bigger. In recent years, it has also been adopted by Western shoppers.

China has a growing number of singles, partly thanks to the One Child Policy which led to a surplus of young men. (By 2020, it will have 30 million more young men than women.)

The single life is even bigger in Western countries. In America, 45% of the adult population is unmarried, higher than ever before. In the UK, it is 49.1%.

When people do get married, they are choosing to do so later. The average age for a first marriage in Britain is now in the 30s.

For decades, psychologists and social scientists have argued that married people are healthier and live longer. “The single individual is more likely to be wrecked on his voyage than the lives joined in matrimony,” concluded a British doctor back in 1858. Today, scientists find that being married makes you more likely to survive cancer and avoid heart problems.

However, a series of new studies are revealing the benefits of singledom. One found that single women aged 50-79 are generally healthier than their married counterparts. Another found that single people have stronger social ties, being more likely to stay in touch with parents, friends and neighbours.

So which is better? Being single, or being in a couple?

“One taught me love…”

Being in a couple, say some. People in happy relationships still tend to be healthier than their single friends. There are also financial benefits as you get older and share incomes. But most of all, there is the simple truth that songwriters and romance novelists have agreed upon for centuries: there is nothing like falling in love.

Being single, say others. There is far more freedom in being independent. You can make decisions without worrying about someone else, focus on your own dreams, and enjoy life on your own terms. Besides, who needs a partner when you have friends and family who support you — and who will probably last longer?

You Decide

  1. Should more people celebrate “Singles Day”?
  2. Is being single better than being in a relationship?

Activities

  1. Many love poems have been written throughout the ages. Try twisting the tradition by writing a love poem to yourself, inspired by Ariana Grande.
  2. Do your own research into the way that another country sees relationships. Write a report answering the following questions: How important is love and marriage to that culture? Are the people better or worse off? How does this affect health, families and gender relations? When you are finished, write a conclusion comparing that country’s attitudes to those of your own country.

Some People Say...

“Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.”

Oscar Wilde

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Alibaba says that customers spent $30.8 billion (£24 billion) on Singles Day, up 27% from last year. The shopping holiday has grown every year since it began in 2009, including spreading to other countries around the world. We also know that fewer young people are choosing to get married in Western countries.
What do we not know?
Whether Singles Day will continue to get bigger and spread around the world in the coming years. We also do not know why marriage is declining in the UK and elsewhere. Many reasons have been suggested, from high divorce rates putting off children who watched their parents split up, to the high cost of weddings, to the decline of religion.

Word Watch

Alibaba
A Chinese online sales company, similar to Amazon. Unlike Amazon, however, it can be used for everything from takeaways to film production.
Bigger
Total sales topped $30.8 billion (£24 billion) on Sunday, according to Alibaba — more than last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales combined (Americans spent $8 billion and $6.6 billion on those days respectively).
One Child Policy
From 1979 to 2015, families in China were only allowed one child each (although there were exceptions for rural families who had a daughter). China estimates that around 400 million births were prevented. As Chinese culture generally favours sons, there is now a gender imbalance among young people.
45%
According to the US Census Bureau. Adults include anyone 18 or over. The unmarried figure includes widows and divorced people.
49.1%
According to the Office for National Statistics. Adults include anyone 16 or over. The unmarried figure includes widows and divorced people.
Survive cancer
According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Oncology.
Healthier
The data included eating habits, BMI, blood pressure and exercise.

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