Home alone Britain as survey shows single living has soared

Smoking habits are among the lifestyle changes in the last 40 years
Smoking habits are among the lifestyle changes in the last 40 years
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There are now almost twice as many people living alone and eating a dinner for one every evening than there was 40 years ago, according to a lifestyle survey monitoring British society.

The 2011 General Lifestyle Survey Overview report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals how society has changed between 1971 and 2011.

Over four decades, about 372,000 households have been involved in the survey, with approximately 970,000 people interviewed to keep tabs on changes in the demographic, social and economic characteristics of households, families and people in Britain.

It found the number of people living alone has almost doubled.

In 1973, just nine per cent of people lived alone while in 2011 that statistic soared to 16 per cent.

People aged 25-44 were five times more likely to be living alone in 2011 (10 per cent) than they were in 1973 (two per cent).

The survey also found changes in relationship status patterns as well as the make-up of families.

Over the last 30 years the proportion of women who were married has fallen by a third while the proportion cohabiting has increased three-fold.

There has, however, been a huge increase in the number of single women, with 18 per cent of women aged 18-49 single in 1979 but leaping to 43 per cent in 2011.

In 1979, just eight per cent of single women were cohabiting but now 36 per cent of women live with a partner.

The proportion of one-parent households has tripled and the proportion of families with only one dependent child increased by about a third.

In 1971, 92 per cent of families were headed by a married or cohabiting couple while in 2011 the survey found just 78 per cent families were headed by a couple.

Other changes in the last 40 years include technological advances, the number of people reporting a long-standing illness or disability, and smoking and drinking habits.

Inside the home, people’s lives have been made unrecognisable in terms of the technology they use on a daily basis.

Back in 1972, just 37 per cent of households were lucky enough to have central heating but now 98 per cent of homes are able to warm up at the flick of a switch.

While almost two-thirds of households (66 per cent) had a washing machine in the early 1970s, that figure rocketed to 96 per cent of households in 2011.

Nowadays, almost 100 per cent of homes have access to a telephone but in 1972 less than half (42 per cent) had that luxury.

A handful (nine per cent) of households had a computer in 1984 – a figure that increased to 80 per cent by 2011.

There was a jump from 21 per cent to 32 per cent in the number of people reporting a long-standing illness or disability.

The proportion of men and women drinking on five or more days a week is down from 23 per cent of men in 1998 to 16 per cent in 2011, and from 13 per cent to nine per cent of women.

Men and women aged 45 and over were found to be more likely to drink on five or more days a week than younger people.

Although cigarette smoking has halved over the last 37 years (from 45 per cent in 1974 to 20 per cent in 2011) the number of cigarettes smoked by men and women has changed little since the 1980s.

In 1971 the General Household Survey was created to be a wide-ranging Government service to gather information covering several main themes which have remained constant over 40 years: Population, housing, employment, education and health.

On the statistics relating to alcohol, Elaine Hindal, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, said that while the figures may suggest alcohol consumption has decreased, that is not necessarily the case.

“On the surface, today’s figures seem to suggest we’re all drinking less, but if you take a closer look, there’s still cause for concern.

“Of regular drinkers, more than half report drinking over the guidelines and a quarter are drinking to binge drinking levels.

“From Drinkaware’s own research, we know that many of these people will not be aware that their drinking could be putting their health at risk,” she said.