Emma Morano is 117 years old (yep, one hundred and seventeen!), and right now she's the oldest living person on Earth. The Italian woman, born in 1899, just celebrated her birthday on November 27th and dished all about what she believes it takes to become a supercentenarian.
The answer might surprise you. No, it's not kale, but rather "being single," says Morano as reported by The Independent. Morano has lived alone since 1938 when she left a violent husband shortly after the death of her infant son.
Turns out science shows that being single actually does offer a bunch of health benefits which, when you add them up, may lead to a longer life. For one, newlywed women tend to gain weight right off the bat, according to a 2014 study published in the journal Body Image. And, actually, you might be more likely to gain weight in a happy relationship than you are in one that's going south (early on in your marriage, at least), according to another study published in the journal Health Psychology. While gaining some "relationship weight" isn't going to kill you, being overweight increases your risk for a whole slew of medical problems from type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease to certain types of cancer, osteoarthritis, and liver and kidney disease, according to the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Translation: not good, if you want to live to see three centuries, like Morano.
Second, heartbreak is a very real thing—and we don't just mean figuratively. Being in a toxic relationship has the potential to literally hurt your heart. Unhappy marriages were linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
And, third, you're more likely to be happy on your own. The "strong, independent woman who doesn't need a man" thing is actually quite true; a New Zealand study found that single people who prefer to steer clear of conflict and disagreements were just as happy as those in a relationship. Not to mention, being alone makes you pretty resilient—especially if you're coming from a rocky relationship, like Morano: "Surviving an experience like that and setting out on her own, without remarrying or finding another legal partner for support, indicates that she has enormous strength for sure," says Sarah Bennett, co-authors of F*CK LOVE: One Shrink’s Sensible Advice for Finding a Lasting Relationship (Touchstone). "It’s possible that, if she didn’t have to find the strength to leave her husband, she wouldn’t have learned how to survive as long as she has, period."
Plus, marital stress (which, let's be honest, is hard to avoid) is linked with depression and might even limit your ability to be happy about positive things, according to another study published in Psychophysiology.
"People always fixate on finding someone so they won’t die single and alone, but this woman is the living example of why that motivation is so stupid; it’s better to live a long, happy life as a single person than stick with some jerk, especially a violent one, just so you won’t have to face mortality by yourself," says Bennett.
Call up your girlfriends, pop a bottle of bubbly, and put on some Beyonce: it's time for ~all the single ladies~ to celebrate.
So, yeah, Morano was onto something. And if you're wondering what other advice she has for living a long life? For one, eat plenty of eggs. She's eaten two raw eggs and one cooked eggs every day since she was 20 years old (as a result of being diagnosed with anemia). That, plus she eats cookies (balance, duh) and steers clear of meat (because someone told her it causes cancer). Other than that? Just keep doing that "Single Ladies" dance. (And for all you girls out there with a ring, don't write up those divorce papers just yet. Here are some ways your relationship actually does boost your health. It's all about perspective, people.)