The effects of COVID-19 locking are the most difficult for single people, according to economists’ models


Economists are trying to model how people are coping with the foreclosure measures in place to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and early results show that single people living alone are experiencing a perfect storm of mental health adversity.

The simulation works from a simple overview obtained from massive studies on how people use their time: who we spend time with massive effects on our happiness.

While 90s sitcoms and suburban movies may suggest otherwise, the average person gets a great boost of happiness by spending time with their spouse. And for an average single person, every minute spent alone makes them a little less happy.

This creates a fairly obvious disparity in how people face the global restrictions employed around the world, writes Barnard College economist Daniel Hamermesh in a working paper released this week at the National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States.

Before taking into account the possibility of job loss or health anxiety, the Hamermesh simulations suggest that the average married person is happier in solitary confinement, while the average single person is miserable.

Higher income also significantly increases life satisfaction and, on average, people are more satisfied with their lives the more they work, so that anyone who experiences a job loss – regardless of their marital status – will see a plunge in the satisfaction of living.

“With more moderate hypotheses on the loss of working time and income, and with all the non-sleeping times listed as being with her spouse, the simulations suggest that the happiness of married people could have been slightly increased by locking”, writes Hamermesh.

It’s hard to find a scenario, however, where singles who experience lockouts themselves don’t fare worse than before.

“Even under fairly conservative assumptions, their happiness decreases and with more extreme assumptions, the decrease is quite significant,” said the study.

The 2012-2013 US time-use study that Hamermesh used to simulate the locking effect was based on time logs submitted by more than 20,000 people. It revealed that married people spend an average of 4.5 hours waking up together. Singles spent about half of their waking hours alone before the blockages started.

“The positive effects of time spent with the partner are statistically significant,” writes Hamermesh. “In the sample of singles, spending more time alone has a strong negative impact on happiness. “

Hamermesh has found that the negative effect of loneliness continues to accumulate with each additional minute of time alone, so much so that even the last minute of a week spent entirely alone has a small, but measurable, negative effect on the happiness of a person.

Spending more time alone has a strong negative impact on happiness

In general, married people identify themselves as happier than singles and single men are the most likely to say that they are not satisfied with their lives, with around a third of them identifying themselves as lower happiness.

Compared to married people, singles tend to spend more time with friends and relatives, which is a good way to improve life satisfaction. With home orders in effect for about a third of the world, this makes this type of socialization impossible for large numbers of people.

One thing remains constant across all simulations. “Time alone remains very significantly negative,” writes Hamermesh.

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