‘Loneliness epidemic’: Half of American singles aren’t looking for a relationship or even seeking casual dates, Pew poll shows

Half of single adults in the US aren’t looking for casual dates, let alone a committed relationship, reflecting a trend toward more reclusive lifestyles in Japan and other developed nations, a new Pew Research Center poll showed.

Fifty percent of Americans who aren’t in a relationship aren’t seeking a committed partner or trying to find dates, Pew reported Thursday, based on polling that was done in October 2019. As for those open to romance, only 14 percent said they’re looking specifically for a relationship. Ten percent want casual dates only, while 26 percent are open to either dating or relationships.

While 61 percent of single American males are looking for dates or relationships, only 38 percent of women considered themselves in the dating market. Pew said the most common reasons given were that respondents had more important priorities or that they just enjoyed single life.

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Such lifestyles are also becoming more socially acceptable. Only 22 percent of American singles said they feel at least some pressure from friends to date, while 32 percent acknowledged pressure from family. Singles also may be discouraged by the difficulty of the task: 65 percent of single women said it’s hard to find someone looking for the same type of relationship as they want, compared with 45 percent of males. Fifty-six percent of women respondents said it’s tough to find someone who meets their expectations, versus 35 percent of males.

The MeToo movement hasn’t helped the romance cause. Sixty-five percent of single men and 43 percent of female respondents said increased focus on sexual harassment has made it more difficult to know how to interact with someone on a date.

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Those concerns were echoed in a Twitter conversation about the Pew poll. “What incentive does any male have to date, or especially to hook up right now?” one user said. “Literally risking your career or jail time if you happen to date the wrong crazy or get accused of who knows what.”

Others noted the impact of individualism, online dating and social programming that discourages traditional lifestyles. “It makes me wonder if the loneliness epidemic in societies like Japan might be all our future,” one tweeted. Author Wesley Yang called the trend “Japanification.”

The US birthrate fell to a record low last year, with just 58.2 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 44. The rate of births relative to total population was 12.5 per 1,000. Japan had the lowest rate among sizable countries, at 7.7.

A growing segment of Japan’s population is so-called ‘hikikomori’ – a person who has withdrawn from society. Japan’s government has estimated the number of hikikomori at 1.15 million, but psychiatrist Saito Tamaki told reporters last year that the true total could be around 2 million and that it may eventually rise to more than 10 million.

The consequences of such trends are severe, including a shortfall of working-age people to support pension and welfare systems in developed countries. Countries such as Hungary, Sweden and Finland have responded by providing financial incentives for couples to marry and have children.

“The Hungarians seem to have found the solution,” one Twitter user said in response to the Pew poll. “Change incentives!”

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