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Living Alone in England and Wales

Six facts about living alone including analysis of age, sex and ethnicity – as well as comparisons across the EU

1. 13% of the usually resident1 population of England and Wales were living alone in 2011

This is similar to that recorded in 2001, when 12% (6.5 million people) were living alone. The European average was 14%, where proportions of those living alone ranged from 7% in Bulgaria to 24% in Denmark. These differences may be linked to varying cultural and social attitudes across Europe.

Figure 1: European comparison of percentage of the population living alone, 2011

Figure 1: European comparison of percentage of the population living alone, 2011

Notes:

  1. Sources: Eurostat, 2011 Census

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Of the usually resident household population aged 16 and over in England and Wales in 2011, 16% (7.1 million) were living alone.

Table 1: Usual residents and household population of England and Wales; 2001 and 2011

  2001 Census (millions) 2011 Census (millions) % change 2001-11
Usually resident population (those in households and communal establishments) 52.0 56.1 7.8
Persons in households 51.1 55.1 7.6
     Persons in households aged 16 and over 40.7 44.5 9.5
     One person households 6.5 7.1 8.7

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Data from Census 2011 tables DC1109EW, KS102EW and 2001 table S001 via Nomis.

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2. Older people were more likely to live alone than younger people

Of those aged 16 and over in England and Wales who were living alone in 2011, less than 4% were aged 16 to 24, 17% were aged 50 to 64 and 59% were aged 85 and over.

Figure 2: Percentage of usually resident household population (aged 16 and over) living alone by age group, 2011

Figure 2: Percentage of usually resident household population (aged 16 and over) living alone by age group, 2011

Notes:

  1. Source: 2011 Census

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3. Older women were more likely to live alone than older men

In 2011, 53% of the household population living alone aged 16 and over were women, but this varied with age.

There were more men than women living alone in age groups under 65: 65% of those aged 35 to 49 living alone were men. This may be partly because divorced men are less likely to live with their children than divorced women.

Those aged 65 and over living alone were more likely to be women: 63% of those aged 65 to 74 were women, and 76% of those aged 85 and over. This is likely to relate mainly to women living longer than men.

Figure 3: Living alone by age and sex, 2011

Figure 3: Living alone by age and sex, 2011

Notes:

  1. Source: 2011 Census

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4. People of White ethnicity were more likely to live alone than people of Asian/Asian British ethnicity

16% of people of White ethnicity aged 16 and over were living alone in 2011, compared to 7% of those of Asian/Asian British ethnicity. 

Among the white ethnic groups, those of Irish origin were living alone most frequently – almost one in four (24%). This was the highest proportion for any ethnic group.

Within the Asian/British Asian group, proportions living alone varied. Those of Chinese ethnicity were most likely to live alone (11%), while those of Bangladeshi (3.7%), Pakistani (4.2%) and Indian (6.3%) ethnicity were least likely to live alone. This may relate to cultural and economic differences, but may also reflect the age structures of the different groups.

Figure 4: Percentage of the population aged 16 and over living alone by ethnic group, 2011

Figure 4: Percentage of the population aged 16 and over living alone by ethnic group, 2011

Notes:

  1. Source: 2011 Census

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5. The majority of those living alone were living in properties with two or more bedrooms

Of those aged 16 and over in England and Wales who were living alone in 2011, 28% lived in one bedroom properties. The remaining 72% were living in household spaces with two or more bedrooms, and were therefore living in under-occupied2 properties.

However, not all those living alone may necessarily be alone all the time. There may be fathers whose non-resident children stay with them some of the time, lone parents with non-dependent children who live with them outside of term-time and people who ‘live apart together’. In some of these cases, people may occasionally require extra bedrooms.

Figure 5: All usual residents living alone by number of bedrooms, 2011

Figure 5: All usual residents living alone by number of bedrooms, 2011

Notes:

  1. Source: 2011 Census

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6. Over half (54%) of those living alone in England and Wales in 2011 owned their own home

This included 36% who owned their home outright. This may relate to the age profile of those living alone as older residents are more likely to have purchased property and paid off their mortgages; 59% of those aged 65 and over living alone owned their home outright compared to 19% of those aged under 65 living alone.

Figure 6: Tenure distribution for one person households and all households, 2011

Figure 6: Tenure distribution for one person households and all households, 2011

Notes:

  1. Source: 2011 Census

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Where can I find out more about population and Census statistics?

These statistics were analysed by the Census Analysis Unit, Population Statistics Division at ONS. This analysis is based largely on data from the 2011 Census, carried out by ONS. If you would like to find out more about the latest Census statistics, you can read the release or visit the Census or Census analysis pages. If you have any comments or suggestions, we would like to hear them! Please email us at: census.analysis.inbox@ons.gsi.gov.uk.

Would you like to see more on living alone statistics? 

  • Previous analysis has summarised changes in households and household composition between 2001 and 2011.
  • A previous ONS publication identified 150,000 men and 474,000 women aged 85 or over living alone; 69% of all women aged 85 and over living in private households were living alone compared to 41% of men.

Notes

  1. The usually resident population refers to people who live in the UK for 12 months or more, including those who have been resident for less than 12 months, but intend to stay for a total period of 12 months or more.  

  2. For each household, ONS derived a bedroom occupancy rating by subtracting the notional number of bedrooms recommended by the bedroom standard from the number of bedrooms actually available. An occupancy rating could indicate overcrowding or under-occupation within a household.

 

 


 

Categories: Population, People and Places, Housing and Households, Households, Number of Households, Household Composition and Characteristics, One-person Households, Living Arrangements, Households by Tenure, Households by Size, Ethnicity Within Households, People, Ageing, Older People
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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