New research published in BMC Psychology sheds light on the “lying flat” lifestyle movement and its relationship to attitudes towards being single. The findings indicate that young adults who have a positive view of the lifestyle, which emphasizes relaxation and avoiding excessive work or societal pressure, also believe that they can find happiness through various sources other than romantic relationships. The results suggest that there might be a growing trend among young people to choose the single lifestyle in the future.
Lying flatism is a trending philosophy that has emerged in China and is practiced by young adults who choose to live a minimalist lifestyle and reject the pressures of society. Lying flatists refuse to participate in consumerist lifestyles, such as pursuing high-paying jobs, purchasing material possessions, getting married, or having children. They believe that personal efforts are no longer effective in improving their lives due to structural and societal factors.
Researchers became interested in studying lying flatism and its relationship with attitudes toward singlehood because singlehood has become a favorable lifestyle choice worldwide, particularly among young adults. The increasing number of singles in countries like the United States, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and China suggests a shift in perspectives and lifestyles. The researchers wanted to explore whether individuals who have positive feelings toward lying flatism also have positive attitudes toward singlehood.
“After conducting my previous research on voluntary singleness, it has become evident that young individuals perceive being single as advantageous. Specifically, they appreciate the increased autonomy and reduced financial responsibilities that come with it. This preference has been observed not only in Malaysia but also in other Asian countries such as India and Japan,” said study author Chee-Seng Tan, an associate professor at the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman.
“Moreover, a concept known as ‘lying flatism’ originating from mainland China, has begun to gain traction among young people in Malaysia. I am intrigued by the potential influence this new concept may have in further encouraging young individuals to opt for a single lifestyle.”
To recruit participants, a combination of purposive and snowball sampling methods was employed. The target population consisted of individuals aged 18 to 24 years who were single and currently residing in Malaysia. The age range was chosen based on the observation that lying flatism is predominantly embraced by generation Z, which includes individuals born between 1997 and 2012.
The data collection process involved the use of a structured online questionnaire, which consisted of multiple sections that assessed various constructs related to demographic information, lying flatism, and attitudes toward singlehood. The final sample consisted of 139 females (59.9%) and 93 males (40.1%).
The researchers found that positive feelings toward lying flatism were also more likely to agree with the statement “I believe that I can have full and happy lives without a romantic relationship.” Those who endorsed this happiness belief, in turn, were more likely to agree with statements such as “I feel happy when I am single,” “I stay single to have more personal space,” and “Engaging in a romantic relationship is not important.”
“Lying flatism and similar phenomena have been observed in various cultural contexts,” Tan told PsyPost. “It is important to pay attention to understanding both their positive and negative aspects. Furthermore, our findings also indicate the importance of comprehending the challenges faced by young people and their personal life philosophies. Lastly, it is crucial to acknowledge that both choosing to stay single and embracing the lying flat lifestyle are personal choices that should not be subjected to stereotypes. Instead, we should respect their choices.”
Tan and his colleague also observed some surprising sex differences.
“Compared to their male counterparts, female young adults exhibited fewer stereotypes towards single people, had a lower fear of being single, held stronger beliefs in achieving happiness without a romantic relationship, and displayed a more positive attitude towards singlehood,” he explained. “These findings indicate that young women are more inclined to embrace being single.”
But the study, like all research, includes some caveats.
“Further research is necessary to replicate this pioneering work, in order to consolidate the findings and enhance the methodology employed in studying this topic,” Tan said. “For instance, conducting a comparative analysis between individuals who practice lying flat and those who do not will provide us with a comprehensive understanding of lying flatism and its defining characteristics.”
“Furthermore, given that the topic is still in its early stages, many aspects concerning lying flatism and voluntary singledom remain unknown. For instance, the precursors of lying flatism, its impact on individual well-being, and its implications for national development are yet to be fully explored.”
“We hope that this topic will draw the attention of more researchers and encourage further development in this field of study,” Tan added.
The study, “Feelings toward lying flatism and attitudes toward singlehood: the mediating role of happiness belief“, was authored by Zeng-Qing Heng, Joey Chin, and Chee-Seng Tan.