Despite societal pressures to get married and have kids, it seems that America’s singles are taking advantage of their independence and looking for ways to better themselves before locking down love. New research from Mintel reveals that single adults are more likely to consider improving their physical health (56 percent), finding a new job (49 percent), buying a new car (42 percent), or buying a house or condo (29 percent) to be a goal for the next five years over getting married (26 percent) or having children (14 percent). Highlighting their independence, many of America’s singles say they are unmarried because they’re concentrating on improving themselves (25 percent) and on improving their careers (16 percent).

Considering some of the other reasons why single Americans are free to roam, two in five (43 percent) single adults who have never been married say they are single because they haven’t met the right person. On the other hand, more than one third (37 percent) of previously married single adults (who identify as being separated, widowed or divorced) are most likely to say they are unmarried because they prefer to be on their own, compared to one quarter (24 percent) of single, never-married adults.

31% of singles feel they are not where they expected to be at their age

Although they are optimistic about their futures, some singles are concerned about their current life stage. Three in 10 (31 percent) feel they are not where they expected to be at their age and nearly the same number (29 percent) say they feel pressure from others to be in a relationship. It seems that today’s digital age may not be making things any easier as 37 percent of singles say seeing happy couples on social media makes them wish they were in a relationship, while 28 percent say the same about advertising. As a potential solution to the problem, one in five (21 percent) singles claim to have used a dating service in the last year*.

“Singles are feeling the pressure to achieve certain milestones in their lives, and likely will be receptive of brands, products and services that allow them to get ahead of the curve. Reassurance and support from sympathetic brands that their reality is something to embrace, not to be discouraged by, will likely go a long way in helping build loyalty,” said Gina Cavato, Lifestyles and Leisure Analyst at Mintel. “Social media has a stronger ability to elicit emotional responses than advertising through traditional media, but also provides brands the ability to interact and engage with users to create more realistic connections. This indicates that brands must tread carefully in their traditional messaging so as to not leave singles feeling left out.”

Despite the fact that just one quarter (26 percent) say they are where they expected to be at their age, single women seem to be more optimistic about their futures. Single women are more likely than single men to prioritize making big lifestyle changes over the next five years, including improving their physical health (60 percent women vs 51 percent men), becoming financially independent (50 percent women vs 41 percent men) and obtaining a higher degree of education (32 percent women vs 26 percent men).

While 61 percent of singles overall feel they are shown positively in the media, single women also seem to have a better outlook on how they are portrayed. Indeed, single women are more likely to agree that singles are shown as successful (33 percent) or driven (28 percent), compared to just 20 percent of single men, respectively.

“Societal pressures and inequalities likely keep single women feeling as though they are not where they should be in their lives. The marketing trend of highlighting women’s strength and empowerment may be contributing to a more positive impression of their portrayal in the media. Some brands have taken it upon themselves to address the confidence and insecurity issues that women face, and it seems to be helping with the way that single women are viewing themselves in both advertisements and the media,” continued Cavato.

It seems that despite the financial benefits of being married, America’s singles are becoming increasingly confident about their finances. One third (34 percent) of single Americans feel financially secure, compared to just 24 percent of singles in 2012. Although four in five (78 percent) singles say they are price-conscious, over two in five (43 percent) say they are more likely to purchase things spontaneously than their family or friends who are married or living with a partner. What’s more, while three-quarters (77 percent) of single Americans say they like to try new things, one quarter (26 percent) say that they won’t do an activity if they can’t find somebody to do it with them.

41% of single adults say that they enjoy traveling alone

However, being married or living with a partner does not necessarily result in the decline of adventure or travel. In fact, non-singles are more likely to plan a trip less than a week in advance (25 percent) than those who are single (22 percent). Where singles and non-singles differ in terms of experiences is their willingness to travel alone. Indeed, two in five (41 percent) single adults say that they enjoy traveling alone, compared to just 30 percent of those married or living with a partner.

“The idea that the ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ may not be true when it comes to a person’s relationship status. While married adults tend to be thought of as being more satisfied overall with their lives, singles are better able to embrace the flexibility that comes with being unmarried. From being able to try new things, take road trips, save money or purchase things spontaneously, single adults will likely be more receptive to last-minute purchases and activities, indicating their potential as a source for business growth, particularly for new products, services or brand extensions,” concluded Cavato.

*12 months leading up to December 2016

Press copies of Mintel’s Single Lifestyles US 2017 report and interviews with Gina Cavato, Lifestyles and Leisure Analyst are available on request from the press office.

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