Single vs. married: A Valentine's Day showdown

Story highlights

  • 55.3% of American adults were married in 2014
  • There were 107 million single people in the U.S. that year
  • Who has it better when it comes to health, finances and happiness? Let's look at the numbers

This article is one in an occasional series about "living solo," by choice or by circumstance.

(CNN)Each year when Valentine's Day approaches, our thoughts turn to love, relationships and coupling.

As some anticipate the holiday that others dread, the spotlight is split between two groups: those in relationships and those who are not. In the game of love, is there one side that emerges victorious, not just on February 14 but for the rest of the year too? Let's investigate.

Introducing the players

    In one corner, we have "Team Marriage." According to the U.S. Census, 55.3% of Americans 18 and over were married in 2014. The marriage rate that year was 6.9 per thousand, which translates to 2.14 million new marriages. This is up from 2013, which saw about 2.08 million.
    On the other side, there's "Team Singles," those 18 and over who have never been married, divorcees and widows and widowers. There were almost 107 million single Americans in 2014, which is about 45% of the adult population. Forty-six percent were women, and 43.2% were men.

    Show me the money

    When you have a significant other, you have a significant financial advantage: You can pool your financial resources and share the bills. If you both work, and make about the same amount, it can seem like you're getting an 100% raise. One often-cited 2005 study from Ohio State University found married people "experience a per person net worth increase of 77% over singles. Additionally, their combined wealth increases on average by 16% for each year of marriage." Another plus, if one partner loses his or her job, the other's income provides a safety net.
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    Married couples don't automatically benefit when it's tax time. Depending on income, some are eligible for bonuses and certain deductions where singles aren't, but in certain situations, they are responsible for paying a tax penalty that could eat up a large portion of their combined salaries. For Social Security, one partner can claim a full spousal benefit, which is equal to one half of your husband or wife's retirement benefit.
    In their 2013 article for The Atlantic, "The High Price of Being Single in America," Lisa Arnold and Christina Campbell experimented with hypothetical single and married people's finances and discovered the marrieds came out on top over their unmarried counterparts in several key areas.
    If you are single, there may be a bit less spending money, but how to spend it is your choice alone. No one can deny your dream of weekly mani-pedis or slam the door on your meticulously decorated fan cave.

    Calling Dr. Feelgood

    Married people seem to reap more health benefits, too. Being married may significantly improve the likelihood of surviving cancer, according to a 2013 study from the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Coupled cancer patients were also 17% less likely to see their cancer spread.
    They have a lower risk for heart problems as well, says 2014 research from the American College of Cardiology. Researchers there screened 3.5 million adults for cardiovascular problems and found that those who were married had less heart disease and healthier blood vessels throughout the body than people who were single, divorced or widowed.
    Don't forget health insurance. Couples and families sharing a plan are sometimes able to pay toward the same annual deductible, which would make benefits coverage kick in faster, saving money.
    The takeaway from these advantages relies on whether the couples had happy marriages. Stress and depression resulting from unhappy partnerships can adversely affect health, an issue singles don't have to face. Researchers from the University of Utah found in 2009 that middle-aged women in unhappy marriages showed risk factors for heart attacks and diabetes.

    Lookin' this good takes work

    If you're single, you may be more motivated to get in shape to look attractive for potential mates.
    Research published in 2013 from Southern Methodist University correlated weight gain and marriage satisfaction in early marriage (newlyweds were more likely to gain weight if they were happy).

    'Eight days a week, I love you'

    No surprise here that married people have sex more often than singletons; 2009 data compiled by Statista from the Journal of Sexual Medicine shows that 71.32% of married people over 18 reported they had had sexual intercourse in the past 90 days.
    Only 11.32% of unattached people said they had "done the deed" during that time.

    Zzzzzzzzzzz

    When you're single, you usually don't have to deal with a partner who hogs the bed or steals the covers. The Better Sleep Council found that 26% of the coupled people they surveyed in 2012 got a better night's sleep when they slept alone.
    Although it seems like many people aren't getting enough sleep anyway, no matter what their relationship status is. Data from the CDC shows that almost one-third of American adults aren't getting the recommended seven hours of sleep each night, and single mothers are getting even less. The study found that 43.5% got less than seven hours. Adults either without kids or without kids at home got a few more winks closer to the right amount, where 29.7% had fewer than seven hours.

    Snoring is a dealbreaker

    Perhaps a snoring partner is the culprit for some of this lack of sleep. A 2015 survey from the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine found "40% of women claim snoring in the opposite sex is a turn-off, and nearly one in 10 Americans went so far as to admit that snoring has hurt at least one of their romantic relationships."
    Snoring regularly affects 37 million sleepers. For singletons, snoring probably isn't as much of an issue -- and every night doesn't feel like an eternity.

    The big day equals a big price tag

    Ready to cross over to the other team? Getting hitched can really add up, for all concerned.
    The national average cost of a wedding in 2014 was $31,213, according to The Knot.com. Those not saying "I do" aren't necessarily off the hook either. The average cost of being a guest at a wedding in 2015 was $673. Out-of-town travel, gifts and suitable attire certainly drive up the cost. Doesn't hurt to pray for an elopement.

    If you like it, put a collar on it

    Everyone knows the stereotype of the lonely spinster with a gajillion cats, but actually families have more critters. Granted, partnerships between pets and singles are growing. Results from an American Veterinary Medical Association study indicate the percentage of single adults with pets grew from 46.9% to 54.7% from 2006 to 2011. Families with pets grew from 65.5% to just 66.4%. Pets trigger health benefits that help everyone, such as decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol. They help ease loneliness and even provide chances to meet new (human) friends and dates. To the dog park!

    Sometimes there's just not a number

    Unfortunately, statistics are elusive for some valuable benefits of being single or married; however, they are still worth noting.
    One partner in a couple can be the resident bug swatter. Couples can enjoy the perks of trading off designated driver duties after a night out on the town, as well as nab a spot in HOV multiple-occupancy highway lanes. If you have a partner, you don't have to worry about facing an amusement park ride by yourself, since those tiny little cars usually come in sets of two.
    All right, all right ... we will conclude by conceding that couples may have financial and health-related advantages, but in perhaps the most crucial category, singles win -- the war over the remote!
    This Valentine's Day, let's concentrate on things that really matter.