Modern life and modern living today means more people are living alone than ever before. In the UK it is believed that the population of solo households will increase to 8,604,349 in 2039 from 6,895,781 in 2014. While the largest growing group is pensioners, we are witnessing more people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s living alone – a growing trend in cities and across the western world.
In the UK, it is thought this pattern is more likely to occur in urban areas like London and Glasgow, a pattern followed in other major European and US cities. European cities are leading the way where 47% of households in Sweden and 41% in Germany are solo.
We have talked before about what solo living potentially means for society. The academic expert in his field, Eric Klinenberg talks about the profound changes the increasing number of people living alone will have in all areas of life, not just emotionally and with relationships but with how services like housing, transport and healthcare are likely to be provided and delivered.
Why is solo living on the increase?
But why is solo living on the increase? We think the reasons behind why so many people are living alone are not often talked about or discussed. Perhaps because those reasons vary dramatically across the community. While we are united by the common factor we share of living alone, the reasons why we are living alone makes our community diverse.
Solo living is increasingly a choice
Increasingly, for some 20/30 somethings and middle-agers solo living is becoming a positive lifestyle choice. Whereas for many others, living solo is a result of circumstance not driven by choice at all. Our diverse community is bound together by a trait we all share – we are living solo and on the whole, responsible for every decision we make in all areas of our life.
Younger people are taking longer to settle down
Younger people choosing to live alone may have a preference for the freedom and flexibility solo living brings at a time when fluctuating finances and the desire to focus on a career means settling down is likely to happen later in their 30s. Even if one intends to commit to a significant other at some point in the future chances are, there will a growing number of late 20 and early 30 somethings who want to enjoy a period of living alone without the pressures of a relationship commitment.
Equally, we should not ignore those who prefer a more solitary life. A solitary life does not necessarily mean one that is less sociable – people living alone are thought to be more sociable and better connected than people in relationships; but there are those within the solo living community who recognise a wish for and have come to enjoy, more solo time and space – away from work, family and social connections and who may also have made a positive choice to not marry or have children.
Not everyone chooses to live alone
For many people though, living alone isn’t necessarily something they have chosen and therefore, find themselves in the unfamiliar territory of living alone through circumstance. There are several reasons why some people living alone did not choose a solo lifestyle. Separation and divorce, children growing up and leaving home or the death of a spouse or partner.
Rise in solo parents
As a consequence, there has been a rise in the number of single parent families. In the UK alone, there are two million single parents making up a quarter of all families with dependent children. The degree to which solo parenting is a choice and the level of shared parental responsibility varies remarkably from one family to the next.
More middle agers are living alone
There has been an increase in the number of middle aged people living alone in the UK. While this is thought to be due to divorce rates, it is also attributed to the significant rise in single people who have never married. For some within the group, living solo was never imagined or planned at all, not thinking living solo would be the way life plays out for them.
Living solo has latterly become a choice
For people like Sarah Beninsaca, living solo did become a choice at the age of 35 and after 20 years of experiencing a potent mix of wonderful as well as unhealthy relationships. On a path like many others, she pursued a life where being alone at the time was perceived as not being good enough. Sarah like others, represents the growing number of middle aged women who are now choosing and who seemingly find it easier to live alone, compared to their male counterparts.
A solo lifestyle has positively stuck
It may not have been a first choice but at a time when being surrounded by a culture where single life and living solo was celebrated and not abhorred, the solo lifestyle has just stuck for many. Female lead roles such as Bridget Jones and Carrie Bradshaw further garnered approval for the solo life when this generation were in their 20s and 30s.
Living together apart
It does not end there! Within this group of middle agers, there is further complexity – it includes the group of couples who find themselves ‘living together apart’. Living together apart? Couples who are in a long term and committed relationship but who choose not to live together – another interesting trend and lifestyle choice.
Our approach to solo living is changing
As the solo population has been increasing there has been a natural shift in the way people approach solo life. While living alone was previously (and perhaps still is, by some) considered to be a negative thing with many people may not have planned their life to be this way, when you consider solo travel and dining is on the rise, solo living nowadays is becoming a positively accepted norm.
Yet striving to live successful, happy and fulfilled lives without a significant other or, with a partner and without living with them, are undoubtedly similar to the goals we share with our co-habiting and married counterparts. The difference being for solos, the responsibility to make it happen lies firmly in our hands alone. With more people living alone today, there is good reason to feel less daunted by living life solo.
What’s left to say is that living solo is a long term reality for many of us and given the numerous reasons why people find themselves living alone, we should definitely be talking about solo living a lot more.
Would you like to contribute to Solo Living? Perhaps you could write about your experiences of living solo? We welcome articles on a variety of topics written from a solo living perspective by a community member or from a guest writer who will resonate with our Solo living community.
Sounds good? Why not drop us an email [email protected] with your ideas. We really want to hear from you!