Feb. 3, 2011 -- The largest and most comprehensive study of singles in the United States has been released just in time for Valentine's Day, and the surprising results dispel long-held beliefs about singles, according to Match.com which commissioned the survey, entitled "Single in America."
The study included 5,200 single men and women between the ages of 21 and 65.
"[The study] is based on the [U.S.] Census Bureau. We have the right number of people from each region, right number of men, right number of women, age groups from 21 to 65 plus," Dr. Helen Fisher, a cultural anthropologist, told ABC News.
Fisher helped conduct the survey in conjunction with the Institute of Evolutionary Studies at Binghamton University.
"We've known for a long time that we're seeing growing economic equality between the sexes, but it was surprising to me that men are adopting some of the attitudes that we've long attributed to women, and women are adopting the attitudes that we've long attributed to men," said Fisher, who is the chief scientific advisor to Chemistry.com, a division of Match.com.
Men are stereotyped as being less interested in settling down and having children than women, but the study shows otherwise.
"Men in just about every cohort are just as eager to marry or more eager to marry as women are. It's not true that they don't want to commit. Particularly young men, age 21 to 34, are more eager to marry than women are. Throughout every single cohort, men are more eager to have children than women are."
According to the study, 51% of men and 46% of women want to have children between the ages of 21 and 34, which are peak reproductive years.
"[Men] also fall in love faster, they're more likely to bring a woman home to introduce her to their parents sooner, they're more likely to marry a woman who's got everything they're looking for in a partner but they're not sexually attracted to that person, than a woman is," said Fisher.
The study found that 54% of men say they have experienced love at first sight, compared to 41% of women.
Women Experiencing 'Tremendous Growth' in Independence
As women make more money, they are valuing their independence more, according to the survey. Long gone are the days when marriage was the only option.
"Women want more nights out with girlfriends than men want nights out with their male friends. They also want to have their own bank account more regularly. They want to go more on vacations by themselves than with their spouse or partner. Along with their economic growth, they have a tremendous growth in personal independence," said Fisher.
Ninety-six million American, or almost one third of all Americans, are single. The survey shows that the happiest are those over the age of 65, among both men and women.
"In fact they're the least likely to go into a committed relationship unless they have a deep sense of love and a deep sense of sexual desire. They want everything by then," Fisher added.
The survey also found that people are a lot more open when it comes to expressing what they're looking for in a partner.
"When we asked them 'What must you have in a relationship?' and 'What's very important to you?' only 20% of men and 29% of women said that they must have, or it's very important to have, somebody of the same ethnic group. And even fewer men and women had to have somebody of the same religion," said Fisher.
The survey found that only 17% of men and 28% of women believe the religious background of their partner is very important. Prejudices are breaking down, but not just in terms of race and religion. Age difference in partners no longer seems as important, according to the survey.
"In fact something like 21% of women had a date with someone who was 10 or more years younger. We're seeing the decline of racism, of religious needs and age-ism," said Fisher.
So what was the most shocking thing Dr. Fisher found in the survey?
"First of all, singles are very romantic. In fact I did a brain study and we found that romantic love can be sustained. The single most interesting thing in this study is that 35% of men and women said that they had initially met someone and not found them terribly attractive and they later felt passionately in love with them. So if I really had to say something to singles on Valentine's Day, I'd say, 'Take a second look.' Think of reasons to say, 'three strikes and I am out' and maybe your dreams will come true. "
Additional key findings include:
Office romances are few, short and not usually destructive: In the past five years, only 12% of singles dated someone in their office. Most workplace romances lasted less than three months and only 6% of women dated their boss. After breaking up, 56% reported this romance did not affect their professional relationship. Thirty-six percent of singles would consider dating someone in the workplace.
Fidelity is a must: 69% of singles regard fidelity as a "must have;" in the case of 46% of the singles, either one or both partners have been unfaithful and 78% of these broke up after the discovery. 70% believe that divorce is acceptable after one or both partners cheat.
The additional key findings were taken from a press release called "Single in America."