Scottish woman Jessie Gallan was 109 years old when she died in 2015. Her secret to a long life is simple: plenty of exercise and porridge — and no men. Could one of the benefits of being single forever really be a long life?
Born in a tiny two-room farm cottage with six siblings, she left home at 13 to become a milkmaid. She worked hard her entire life, seldom taking holidays until she was too old to work. And she never married.
"My secret to a long life has been staying away from men," she told The Daily Mail in a January 2015 interview. "They're just more trouble than they're worth."
"I also made sure that I got plenty of exercise, eat a nice warm bowl of porridge every morning and have never gotten married," she added.
Though Gallan's secret doesn't sound scientific at all, there's actually some truth to her advice.
The Benefits Of Being Single Forever
Previous studies have found that singleness can kill you faster than obesity, so what gives? In actuality, it's not the lack of a wedding ring that can shorten your life, but loneliness and a lack of a social support system. And because women usually have healthier social networks compared to men (71% of women report being satisfied with the number of their friends, versus only 48% of men), they tend to do better living alone.
Studies have found that women do better than men when living alone, and that men usually do better when they live with other people (e.g. a wife). Women are also more likely to initiate divorces, and less likely to remarry.
Perhaps this is because women are traditionally tasked with taking care of the family — the cooking, the cleaning, the bulk of the child-rearing — while putting their hobbies and interests aside. Married men, meanwhile, aren't usually as limited by marriage than their wives. It's no wonder, then, that women report enjoying solitude more than men do.
Does this mean that we should forego marriage and embrace the spinster lifestyle?
If that floats your boat, sure.
But Bella DePaulo, an expert on the single lifestyle, writes in Psychology Today that today's young men and women are taking longer to settle down and get married. So now, more men are learning skills that generations of men before them never bothered to: cooking, cleaning, maintaining healthy social networks. Maybe we're being a little too optimistic here, but perhaps this means we can hope for more egalitarian marriages that enrich both parties' lives, instead of burdening one with most of the work.
But if the single-for-life lifestyle still looks more appealing to you, at least you can add "a long life" to your list of benefits of being single forever — so long as you make sure you get your daily bowl of porridge.