Single person households

This driver has been archived

This driver has now been replaced by Changing Family Structures

Traditional household structures are changing with family sizes generally decreasing. The biggest change is the increase in single person households. By 2031, 18% of English households are expected to consist of just one person, compared to 13% in 2006. [1] This is due to a rise in divorce rates, lone parents and elderly women outliving men. Young professionals are also moving around more and living alone, away from their family networks. However, there has also been an increase in young people living with their parents for longer because of high house prices and, more recently, a reduction in the availability of credit during the economic downturn.

What are the implications?

  • A continued increase in single person households may further decrease housing availability and increase debt as people borrow to afford a decent home.
  • Despite the economic downturn, high house prices may continue to cement poverty and inequality based on whether or not one owns a home, rather than one’s income.
  • This may have implications for charities that provide debt advice, work with those in poverty or the homeless, or are concerned with mental health or community cohesion.
  • The trend towards single person households may also reduce individual giving as single people, and those competing with them to afford housing, feel less affluent.

Moving forward

The rise in single person households may lead to an increase in debt, poverty, homelessness and problems of mental health and community cohesion.

  • How might these issues impact your organisation? What plans do you need to make now to cope with a greater need for services, or a demand for different services?
  • Will you need to improve how you work or be more responsive? Will you need to innovate to serve new or different users?

An increase in debt and higher living costs may reduce individual giving.

  • What strategies can your organisation put in place now to manage potential future changes in funding?
  • Can you diversify your income or work in partnership with other organisations?

Want to know more?

Focus on Families

Published by: Office for National Statistics - a Government Department

Date: 2007

Format: PDF plus web-based summaries

What is it? A statistical analysis using demographic information to explore family types’ similarities and differences.

How useful is this?This short analysis focuses on families but also includes a section on households, which finds that more people are living alone.

Unilever Family Report 2005: Home Alone?

Published by: Institute for Public Policy Research – a left of centre think tank

Date: 2005

Format: PDF

What is it? This report explores the growing trend of people living alone and includes a range of statistics as well as qualitative analysis.

How useful is this?The report aims to supplement existing quantitative data by exploring why people live alone and who they are. Aspects covered include ethnicity, living alone as a rite of passage, whether it is a real choice, its impact on inequality, the different experiences of men and women, the negative financial impact of living alone, and environmental implications. The report also discusses the wider impact on families and social relations. Interestingly, it finds that those who live alone are more likely to say that they might volunteer.

Single person households and social policy: looking forwards

Published by: The Joseph Rowntree Foundation – a research and development charity.

Date: 2006

Format: PDF

What is it?  This paper analyses the implications of the growth in single person households for social policy. It includes a large number of statistics.

How useful is this?The paper looks at the demographic make up of people living alone and draws a distinction between those living alone through choice and those who have been forced to live alone. It highlights the possible impacts solo living can have on poverty and inequality, the labour market, housing policy, health, neighbourhoods and social capital. It also poses possible future research questions.

Household Projections to 2031, England

Published by: Communities and Local Government - a Government Department.

Date: 2009

Format: PDF

What is it? Statistical report on the projected number of households in England and its regions to 2031.

How useful is this? Analysing projections by the Office for National Statistics, the report predicts a growth in households, identifies key factors driving this trend, and draws out regional variations and particular features, such as the increasing number of one-person households. Although projections can never be entirely accurate, this source is extremely helpful in not only providing a picture of today's household structures but also forecasting what the future will look like.



  1. Household Projections to 2031, England [back]
Last updated at 16:09 Mon 21/Feb/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

  • Lock