Sinkkuus Suomessa: Monimenetelmäinen tutkimus parisuhdenormatiivisuudesta ja hyvinvointitekijöistä

Anu Kinnunen

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisCollection of Articles


This thesis analyses the happiness factors of single men and women, and contemplates how the discourses of the couple norm and individualistic culture are reflected in single men's written stories. It also analyses the current presentations of singles in the Finnish media.

The number of singles is assumed to be rising, but there is as yet no registered data to support the claim. The number of people living alone has ostensibly risen in Europe and globally (Eurostat 2019; SVT 2020a; Klinenberg 2012; Yeung & Cheung 2015), and living alone is particularly popular in the Nordic countries, Finland included. The increase in living by oneself is due to a number of factors. One reason among many is the rise of an individualistic culture. People are expected to exercise agency in their lives, and success is deemed to lie in one's own hands. However, at the same time, couple normativity puts the emphasis on a couple relationship as an essential source of happiness. Although the numbers of singles are rising, we know very little about their well-being. This work aims to fill this information gap.

The thesis is a multimethod study using both qualitative and quantitative methods, and three datasets: responses provided by singles to a Finnish survey on sexrelated attitudes and behavior, FINSEX (N=944), between the years 1992 and 2015; writings by 19 single men collected by means of a writing invitation in 2019; and media data gathered from 250 newspaper articles from the years 2017 and 2018. The media data comprised articles on singlehood and living alone from three Finnish newspapers. When analysing the data, a binary logistic regression model and cross tabulation were used for the quantitative data, and discursive analytical methods for the media data and the men's writings.

The well-being of singles is the sum of many factors. The quantitative data were used to analyse the correlation of happiness with several variables simultaneously: intimate relationships, experiences of loneliness, exercise, alcohol usage, religiosity, health, and socioeconomic factors. The results show that single women are far happier than men in the same situation, and that men experience more difficulties than women in finding a partner. In the case of women, lack of experiences of loneliness was the strongest indicator for happiness. For men, the most vital indicators for happiness were fewer psychosocial symptoms and taking regular exercise. In a more detailed analysis of the single men, the quantitative data were used to study the effect of wishing to have a partner on well-being. In this case, the single men were divided into two groups: those wishing to engage in a couple relationship and those who were not interested in such a committed relationship at that particular point in their life. The men who wanted a relationship were less happy, lonelier and had more psychosomatic symptoms than the other single men.

The men's writings were used to analyse the discourses of hoping for a relationship on the one hand, and the freedom offered by individualistic singlehood on the other. Traditional couple normativity is culturally linked to the promise of happiness (Ahmed 2010). Expectations include ideals of mutuality, closeness, continuity, and equality (Jurva & Lahti 2019; Sihto et al. 2018). In the Western individualistic culture, individual freedom and independence are also valued. However, in the single men's written stories, the dilemma between the couple norm and individual freedom was hard to detect, and couple normative thinking was predominant. In those without a previous couple relationship history, the fear of losing out on the essential experience of being in a couple was also present. Singlehood was connected in the men's stories with feelings of being an outsider and being ineligible – feelings which, in some cases, originated in their youth.

The media data strongly supported other findings in this study. In the press, singlehood is still often defined in terms of the lack of a couple relationship. The focus is on the wish to find a partner, and singlehood (in most cases of women) is presented either as a growth story or as an overly sexualised search for a partner. Singlehood also seems to have entertainment value in the press, as reporting on events from reality shows concerning singles counts as valid press content. Social discussion on the subject of singlehood seems almost nonexistent, although many topics related to singlehood could be taken up, such as social networking, separating work and free time, health challenges when living alone, or even feelings of a lack of agency in one's life.

Given that a proportion of Finnish singles are happy, it can be concluded from this study that the well-being of singles varies considerably based on both gender and the voluntary nature of singlehood. Well-being can best be supported by reinforcing sources of happiness outside of traditional couple relationships such as other social relations and healthy living. It is also essential to understand that the picture of singlehood presented in the media is rather one-sided.
Original languageFinnish
Place of PublicationTampere
PublisherTampere University
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-03-2168-0
ISBN (Print)978-952-03-2167-3
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (articles)

Publication series

NameTampere University Dissertations - Tampereen yliopiston väitöskirjat
ISSN (Print)2489-9860
ISSN (Electronic)2490-0028

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