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March 2018

The Single Resident Life

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Ann Hulme, MD
PGY3, University of Pennsylvania

After waking up from a post-call nap, I poured a glass of syrah to finish the bottle that had been opened a few nights before and started reviewing relationship data. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population of the United States was 323,127,513 as of July 1, 20161. In 2016 there was a marriage rate of 6.9 per 1,000 total population with a divorce rate of 3.2 per 1,000 total population2. The U.S. Census Bureau further determined that 26.1% of males and 33.1% of females aged 20-34 years old are married. There are an estimated 3.8% of males who were divorced or separated compared to 5.8% of females in the same age range3. A few things came to mind when looking at the data. First, with the divorce rate almost half the marriage rate, why get married? Second, how are all the newly married people meeting each and why am I not one? Which are quickly followed by rational thoughts of “do I want to be one of the them” and “that seems like a lot of effort.” 

Medical training naturally delays entering the workforce by requiring an additional four years of school followed by four more years of training before having a “real” job. The process allows us to delay “growing up “and put off developing lasting relationships if we choose. Many feel there is little time available to meet anyone to date. Time away from the hospital is occupied by research, quality improvement projects, and boards studying, not to mention ADLs, exercise, and sleep. In that limited time a person needs to consider if  it is worth the energy to commit to something or someone else. Some factors weighing in on this decision are the possibility of relocating after residency, potentially moving again after fellowship, undetermined personal goals for intimate relationships, and the ticking reproductive clock. Thus, the ongoing debate continues in many a single resident’s head: is it better to go home without worrying about anyone else or go home to a supportive companion each night?

When the decision to date is made, more decisions need to follow. Some residents hope that there are appealing single residents in other departments, nurses, therapists, or administrators who we may pursue appropriate social relationships outside of work. Alternatively, more residents are turning toward technology to assist with match making. More dating apps become available by the day, each with their own reputations. In 2013 the Pew Research Center found that 11% of American adults had used online dating websites or mobile dating apps with 42% of Americans knowing someone who has used online dating. The proportion increased with 22% of 25-34 year olds being online daters.4 Based on an informal survey of residents and general observations, this data has likely trended towards increased use of online dating services over the last five years. Residents report advantages to using dating applications include the ability to meet many people with limited effort, in cities there are many different options for dates, and they allow you to schedule what you want. Some people report frustration with applications due to the commitment, privacy concerns, limited options in smaller cities, and the possibility of matching with patients. While dating in residency is not always easy, it is possible. Many people have met significant others during their training, with some relationships progressing to marriage within that span. It’s reassuring to know that I am not alone and there is still hope. That being said, tonight I’ll enjoy my glass of wine solo.

References:

1. Quick Facts. The U.S. Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045216 Accessed: 27 December 2017

2. Provisional number of marriages, divorces and annulments and rates: United States, 2000-2016. Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/national_marriage_divorce_rates_00-16.pdf Accessed: 27 December 2017

3. 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk. Accessed 27 December 2017.

4. Smith, Aaron and Duggan, Maeve. Online dating & relationships. Pew Research Center. October 2013. http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Online-Dating.aspx. Accessed 27 December 2017.