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February may find some people longing for a partner to celebrate Valentine’s Day, yet statistics show that more Canadians are single than ever before.

As of 2021, among 25-to-29-year-olds, 60 per cent reported single status, as did roughly 30 per cent of 35-to-74-year-olds. Singlehood is on the rise, however the factors that make singlehood rewarding or challenging are not well known.

Simon Fraser University (SFU) psychology professor Yuthika Girme is a relationship and singlehood scientist, and leads the Singlehood Experiences and Complexities Underlying Relationships—Secure Research Lab at SFU. Girme and her team study factors in romantic relationships and singlehood that contribute to wellbeing, with a specific focus on peoples’ attachment insecurities, social support networks, experiences of stigma and discrimination and other complexities of social relationships. 

A recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from SFU, she also hosts a podcast, Merlot with my Beau, with partner Steve Miller where they discuss the psychology behind close relationships and peoples' unique and complex personalities.

Girme and colleagues Yoobin Park from the University of California and Geoff MacDonald from the University of Toronto recently published Coping or Thriving? Reviewing Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Societal Factors Associated With Well-Being in Singlehood From a Within-Group Perspective. The article reviews the literature related to wellbeing in singlehood and offers a framework for future research. It was recently highlighted in The Conversation Canada.


We spoke to professor Girme about her research.

According to your research, what are some of the common myths associated with singlehood?

A commonly held belief is that single people are lonely, sad and desperate for a partner. Emerging research on single people suggests that this is not completely true. While some people do struggle with being single, there are many single people who are happy, thriving and not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship.

Why is singlehood on the rise in Canada? Is this the same in other parts of the world?

Singlehood is on the rise globally. There are more single adults now than there have ever been in recent history. Singlehood is becoming more common as people delay committed relationships in order to pursue personal goals and aspirations, as people re-enter singlehood later in life due to separation or divorce, and some people are choosing to remain single throughout their lifespan.

There is a large number of studies about relationships and wellbeing, but not as many about singlehood and wellbeing. Why do you think this is—and is there a new way to frame the way we look at singlehood?

Historically, many of the studies that examined singlehood compared single people to married people. These studies found that coupled people tend to be happier, healthier and live longer than single people, so scientists focused their attention on helping people foster happy and long-lasting romantic relationships.

Our research is revisiting early assumptions about singlehood. We show that one reason single people may be unhappy is because they are treated poorly by their family, friends and society. This perspective challenges assumptions that there is “something wrong” with single people and aims to broaden understanding about the factors that undermine versus facilitate single peoples’ wellbeing.

What led you into the emerging field of study of intimate relationships and the single experience?

I “fell in love” with relationship science because romantic relationships can be the absolute best thing for people by providing people with love, support and companionship, but also the absolute worst thing by causing hurt, rejection, conflict and abuse. This led me to singlehood science, because single people may be able to avoid costly relationships. For example, my research has shown that single people can be just as happy as coupled people when they are motivated to avoid conflict and disagreements. This opened up broader questions for me about integrating singlehood and relationship science to better understand peoples’ social world.

What are some of the factors that help promote healthy relationships—whether in singlehood or in romantic partnerships?

There are many factors that promote healthy relationships regardless of whether people are single or coupled.

Some factors reflect personal characteristics—having the capacity to develop secure attachments with others, having high self-esteem and clarity about one’s self-identity, and having the ability to regulate positive and negative emotions in healthy ways.

Other factors are relational—making sure that within social relationships with family, friends and partners, one is able to communicate and deal with conflict constructively, provide reciprocal social support and nurture quality time engaging in shared hobbies or interests together.


For more, read Girme’s op-ed in the Toronto Star: Is it time we cancelled Valentine’s Day?, visit on Instagram and listen to her podcast, Merlot with my Beau.

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