The average married guy in the U.S. lives to be 75; the typical single guy lives only until 70. That's a five year difference, so despite all the jokes that stand-up comics make about married guys being stifled and henpecked, the data suggest that men thrive in committed relationships. But why? And what can single guys do to extend their lives?
On the popular sitcom Two a Half Men, Charlie Sheen played the thinly disguised Charlie Harper, TV's version of the idealized bachelor. Carefree and promiscuous, he drives a Mercedes and a Ferrari, smokes cigars, dates extensively, drinks excessively and generally lives life in the fast lane with little concern for his health (or anyone else's). He seems happy in a rather disorganized, unsettled way. There’s only one problem with this image of bachelorhood: it’s not entirely true.
Glenn Good is a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Missouri and author of The New Handbook of Psychotherapy and Counseling with Men. He explains that many single men ignore unhealthy warning signals in their lives and often feel compelled to live up to the stereotypical bachelor image: excessive drinking, smoking and carousing. “Left to their own devices, they don’t discipline themselves and succumb to advertising messages to dine on double whoppers,” says Good.
Married guys tend to live their lives with a mate who watches out for their best interests. Some might perceive this as nagging, but others would view it as loving concern. "Wives look out for us," Good asserts. "They tell us what things are bad for us.”
Moreover, wives see the damage men do to themselves that most guys are oblivious or blind to. If the spouse looks dejected, the wife won’t accept that her husband had a good day at the office. She will ask questions to identify what is troubling him. If the guy is drinking too much or not exercising, the trusty mate will point that out. The result: bad habits are ended, good habits begin, and married guys live longer.
But bachelors can do things to extend their lives. Here’s what experts recommend:
#1 Establish strong, meaningful relationships
Isolation is what creates problems for single guys. Alone and lacking feedback, bachelors can easily lapse into depression, alcoholism or bad habits. Building a network of friends, single or married chums, is one way to fill that void. Unattached guys need people in their lives who can say, “What’s with the four beers at dinner?” Research says establishing a social network is good for one’s health and extends one’s life, Good says.