In an article about seniors who show up malnourished in emergency rooms, NYT author Judith Graham suggests social isolation might be a factor.
“Who likes to eat alone?” she asks rhetorically.
More and more of us live in one-person households by choice. Some people like to eat alone and it’s time everyone realized that’s a perfectly appropriate choice to make.
If a room is filled with noisy conversation I won’t eat, period. Stress isn’t good for digestion and anyway I want to enjoy my food.
When you like living alone (and census data shows more and more of us do), you obviously like eating alone. We don’t need stigmatizing comments or rhetorical questions with an agenda.
Single people die younger. According to this article, the difference might be due to a spouse who nags you to eat better or see a doctor. I think it’s also likely that you’ll get better care from doctors when a family member can advocate for you. Read the article here.
And here’s another article about positive effects of marriage on men’s health. Click here.
One thing that gets ignored is the way the health care system views single versus married people. It’s assumed that you’ll have a family member pick you up after outpatient surgery. The Family Medical Leave provides only for care of a parent, spouse or child – not even a brother or niece, let alone a friend. People can’t get off work to drive a friend home from the hospital, especially in the middle of the day with short notice. Additionally, we keep hearing that it’s important to have family members with you if you’re in a hospital; otherwise you’re far more subject to medical errors, neglect and even outright abuse.
Some people genuinely enjoy their own solitude and single status. In terms of aging, that’s a plus, because we’re more independent and less likely to mourn. But getting care becomes a massive invasion of privacy, with limited options for support.
Recently I came across this article, allegedly reporting that being married confers health benefits: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274828
Here’s my comment:
Being happily single and disgustingly healthy, I had a few concerns about this article.
Bella DePaulo’s book, Singled Out, provides a rigorous discussion of flaws in research comparing single and married people. For instance, often researchers lump together the “never-married,” divorced and widowed, without controlling for recency of divorce or widowhood. Those who never married actually have an advantage as they age because they are used to being alone.
As for cancer patients living longer, I’d want to know, “Are these people holding on longer, even living in pain, because they’re waiting to see a grandchild get married or graduate from college? Are their spouses and children reluctant to turn off life support, as compared to the more distantly related proxies of single people?”
Rather than emphasize the health benefits of marriage (which aren’t entirely clear), I’d like to see some focus on how the medical community treats married vs single people. Many singles find that getting an “approved” ride home from out-patient surgery has been so stressful, I will avoid having elective procedures that require a ride from a responsible adult. A woman with a tall husband or son at her side will be treated far more courteously than a single woman who shows up alone. There’s nothing wrong with solitary life (see Anthony Storr’s classic book, Solitude), yet the system discriminates against them. I’m pretty social, but if I choose to be a curmudgeonly hermit, why should I be denied access to quality health care? That’s the *real* question.