behavior · environment · happiness · health · psychology

The financial and emotional drain of growing old alone

Marriage Day
Living with someone can be tough, but it may pay off, both financially and health-wise.

I came across this article today that focuses on the financial drain of growing old:

More Americans are living alone now than at any other point in history, and one-third of those 32.7 million are older than 65. A rise in the divorce rate in the over-50 set, which has doubled over the past two decades, along with women outliving their spouses by five to six years, is fueling the trend, which will only grow with an aging boomer population.

The older population in 2030 is projected to double from the start of this century — from 35 million to 72 million — representing nearly 20% of the total U.S. population, according to AARP.

Living on your own can be far more costly than sharing expenses like food and housing with a spouse, relative or housemate. Single seniors who also face escalating health care costs are five times more likely to live in poverty as their married peers.

I also feel like an important element was being skipped; the emotional drain and tax on growing old alone. If nothing else, for somebody to have your back.

One study in Denmark found that

A study involving more than 138,000 adults in Denmark showed that living alone carries a serious risk of heart disease. The subjects were followed from 2000 to 2002 and during that time 646 experienced severe angina, a heart attack, or sudden cardiac death. The two strongest predictors of these diagnoses, called acute coronary syndrome, were age and living alone. Women over the age of 60 and men over the age of 50, who lived alone, were twice as likely to have the syndrome as the other people. Although women over 60 who lived alone compromised only five percent of the studied group, they accounted for 30 percent of all deaths. Lone men over 50 were eight percent of the group, yet represented two thirds of the deaths.

In the Telegram UK:

Middle-aged men who reject family life and choose to live alone are more likely to die earlier than their married counterparts, UK Government figures published yesterday reveal.

They are also significantly more prone than married men to a variety of debilitating illnesses such as diabetes and rheumatism, said the study released by the Office for National Statistics.

The findings come against a backdrop of research which shows that married couples tend to enjoy better health than unmarried people.

Another study of 29 countries found that people who live alone are more likely to die young:

A four-year study of 45,000 people from 29 countries. Researchers found that those living solo under age 65 had a 21% greater chance of dying; in their study, 9.3% of those who had a roommate died within the four years, compared to 11.4% of those who had none. The researchers believe the main reason for the bump may simply be that being alone means there is no one around to help when something goes wrong, notes the Orlando Sentinel.

Although, to be fair, the same study found that after a certain age living alone was associated with longer life, but that could also be because older folks who are healthier are able to live alone and not move into assisted living for longer.

“but the hunch is if you make it to 80 and are independent, you’re doing pretty well.”

So, the bottom line of all of this? Think about splitting the rent with someone, even if you don’t technically need to.

happiness · play

C’mon, get happy!

Why? For one thing, your smile predicts how happy you’ll be in marriage. However, love at first sight might be genetic, so don’t take it too hard if you don’t feel immediate sparks.

If you need help getting happy and connecting with others, try playing. Why? Because play is the glue that keeps societies together, according to Peter Gray.

“Hunter-gatherers used humor, deliberately, to maintain equality and stop quarrels, Gray contends, and their means of sharing had game-like qualities. Their religious beliefs and ceremonies were playful, founded on assumptions of equality, humor, and capriciousness among the deities. They maintained playful attitudes in their hunting, gathering, and other sustenance activities, partly by allowing each person to choose when, how, and how much they would engage in such activities.”

Just remember, play is important to your social well-being.

You know what also works? Tickling and scritching.


Women on pill choose mates too close to home

A study, which is supported by research in the 90s, finds that women on the birth control pill will choose mates that have a similar smell make-up to themselves, which evolutionarily is a bad thing; in a normal hormonal stage, women choose guys with contrasting smells (major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene-produced odor to be more precise) because essentially it means that the woman is not procreating with a distant relative and her offspring is more genetically fit, and will also recognize more smells as familiar and be more open to people. Once women go off the pill, apparently they are more likely to leave or cheat on the similarly-smelling partner.

At first this totally blew my mind! I knew that smell played a MAJOR role in mate selection, but the fact that the pill can mess with one’s sense of smell and ability to smell others to the point of evolutionary malfunction is amazing. Although upon further analysis it makes perfect sense, since the pill is a hormone replacement, and there is already plenty of evidence that a woman’s hormonal cycle affects her sense of smell. Women have a hard time becoming sommeliers (wine tasters) because their sense of smell (and therefore taste) changes throughout her menstrual cycle so they are considered not as reliable tasters as men. Many women I know couldn’t walk down the soap or seafood aisle at a grocery store when they were pregnant because their sense of smell was just too sensitive.

It makes me wonder what this means for women who have been on the pill from the time they were teenagers until they decide to have their first kid. Obviously this doesn’t mean that every woman who meets her mate on the pill will dump him as soon as she’s off (I’ve been with my guy for five terrific years), but the implications of this are fascinating.


Filing a complaint

I’m having the worst time getting things through bureaucratic tape and getting my complaints heard, so while these stories are a little dated, I figured I’d post these two about people making blatant statements about a particular culture with their complaints.

The first one is the story about how a 5th grader noticed something wrong on an exhibit at the Smithsonian. The sad thing is people working within the Smithsonian had noticed it too, but it took someone from outside the system to make them fix it. Hooray for bureaucracy!

This story is about two women who are divorcing the same man. They are working within their culture’s limitations to assert their rights. Since it technically has to be the man who initiates the divorce, they figured if they teamed up and asked for a divorce it’d be near impossible for him to turn them down. Strength in numbers!


Guys are clueless, and we’re cool with that.

This study done by Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences says that guys are clueless when it comes to women’s visual cues when trying to determine whether the woman is being friendly, sexual, sad, or rejecting.
Traditionally the argument has been that guys interpret every cue from women as a sexual advance. The researchers say that guys misinterpreted both friendly and sexual cues, so therefore they’re just clueless or less able to communicate all around.
I’m still not convinced. I still think there’s a biological advantage for men who misinterpret cues as sexual, whether the cues are or not. Maybe these college age kids weren’t as sexually aggressive as others. Maybe men are intimidated by women in this new age of political correctness. I also imagine it has to do with the context. If a woman flashes a man a small at the bar versus the library, what is he going to think?

In another study, researchers found that people who are socially awkward make the best long-term mates (score one for the nerds!).