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July 3, 2013 / C H Thompson

Living alone

According to the Office for National Statistics the 2011 Census revealed just under a third of households consisted of one person in 2011; people living aloneproportionally this has remained unchanged since 2001 although the number of people living alone has increased by 0.6 million.

The composition of singlehood shows 2.5million between 45 and 64 living in their own home alone with the number of men on living on their own has increased far more than women.

Comparisons with other EU countries show that while 13% of the total resident population of England and Wales (7.1 million) were living alone in 2011, Denmark had the highest proportion with 24% of its total resident population living alone.

This Office for National Statistics interactive map shows the distribution of one-person households (singlehood) across England and Wales from 2011 Census data.

Although the number of people living along in the UK is relatively smaller than other EU countries the expectation for what Eric Kinenberg terms solo living, is to continue growing. So what is driving this growth? American sociologist Eric Kinenberg research identified the following points:

  • more people live alone than ever before is that they can afford to
  • the rise stems from the cultural change that Émile Durkheim, called the cult of the individual – according to Durkheim, this cult grew going soloout of the transition from traditional rural communities to modern industrial cities.
  • divorce once justified a person’s decision to stay in an empty-shell marriage -today if someone is not fulfilled by their marriage, they have to justify staying in it, because there is cultural pressure to be good to one’s self.
  • as divorced or separated people often say, there’s nothing lonelier than living with the wrong person- there’s a difference between being lonely and alone
  • communications revolution has allowed people to experience the pleasures of social life even when they’re living alone
  • young solitaires actively reframe living alone as a mark of distinction and success -they use it as a way to invest time in their personal and professional growth building up a strong network of friends and work contacts.
  • contemporary families are fragile, as are most jobs, and in the end each of us must be able to depend on ourselves.People living alone

In contrast other social groups identify the following problems with the growth in singlehood:

  • number of people living alone has pushed up demand for  housing
  • is very expensive in terms of state benefits and  health and social services care
  • people who live alone are more likely to need the NHS or social services.

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