Updated 04 July 2014

One third of single South Africans anxious over not finding love

More than 32% of single adults admit to feeling depressed and anxious about not finding love.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, South Africans are facing a stark reality: they are love-starved. According to a just-released survey, more than 32% of single adults admit to feeling depressed and anxious about not finding love.

The national poll, which was conducted by Pharma Dynamics (a generic pharmaceutical specialising in medication for the treatment of depression and anxiety), turned up some interesting results.

Three in ten of the 529 single adults polled nationally, said being single makes them feel lonely, while 12% said they felt less attractive and 36% blamed themselves for their loveless situation. The majority however (89%) still firmly believes in true love and 76% said that finding that special someone would contribute greatly to their overall state of happiness.

Today's generation are struggling to find long-lasting love

Mariska van Aswegen, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics says today’s generation of young people are finding it harder than ever to find fulfilling long-term relationships.

“There are a number of factors that contribute to making finding Mr or Mrs Right so much more difficult in the 21st century. Globally, rates of loneliness are increasing as social structures disintegrate.

Comparing then and now

Back in the 80s, the General Social Survey (GSS) collected the first nationally representative data on the number of confidants (friends, family, soul-mates) that Americans had in their lives, and the most common response was three.

In 2004, when the survey was done again, the most common response was zero. This marks an important change in our social structure and inevitably impacts on match-making,” she says.

Love locations

According to Pharma Dynamics’ poll, the gym, book and/or dance club seemed to be the most popular hangouts for single South Africans to find love, voted for by 56% of participants. 

More than 35% of respondents said they are confident about finding their match online, while 26% cited the workplace, 23% the supermarket, 22% the park and 16% still relied on the local pub to produce their perfect mate.

Pros and cons of online dating

Van Aswegen notes there are many pros to online dating, but that one should be careful not to lean on the online dating crutch too much.

“Online dating may in the long-run discourage men from pursuing their partners more aggressively, leading to a more passive approach. Instead of walking up to a woman at a café or party after she’s made it clear that she’s interested, a man might not know how to respond and be more inclined to open his laptop and send a message to several single women about how much he likes their profile, while a genuine, real-life opportunity passes by.

“On the other hand, women who rely too heavily on cyber-dating too can become far less outgoing and less enthusiastic about starting conversations with men in public.

Limiting online dating might be a solution

Limiting the use of online dating sites might just force you to take more action in person. If you make yourself a little more available and assertive, and you don’t block out the world around you when you are out, you might just be surprised.”

Desperate to find love

More than 20% of the respondents have fixed ideas about how quickly one should, ought to, have to and must find love and 36% admitted to having long checklists about their potential partners. 55% also said they find themselves withdrawing from dating opportunities and pre-emptively rejecting suitors based on past experiences and preconceived ideas.

Van Aswegen says the trouble with checklists is that they are based on superficial attributes such as hobbies, interests and looks.

“In reality successful long-term relationships are rarely based on these. It is shared values and chemistry that are essential. You can work through differences in hobbies and interests and even get past looks. Those who have rigid attitudes about romantic love are also the most likely to develop depression.

“It’s easy to get down about being single even when you have an otherwise good life, but it’s important not to dwell on the negative. Although negative thoughts alone are not enough to cause depression, but the combination of cognitive vulnerability and a mildly depressed mood can lead to a downward spiral that can eventually lead to major depression.

Here's to beating these Valentine's Day blues

To beat the blues this Valentine’s Day, Van Aswegen suggests the following:

Realise that being without a partner isn’t a character flaw and that there is absolutely nothing        wrong with being single.

Get on with your life and the activities that you enjoy, and stay involved.

Learn to be patient and relax a little.

Forget about love at first sight and give love at fifth site a chance.

Take your time, stop worrying about whether your current date is your best choice and just enjoy the process of getting to know somebody, even if they don’t tick all your boxes right away.

Picture: Broken heart from Shutterstock

Read more:

Relationship blues

Green your Valentine

Should we be eating more chocolate?


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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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