Research shows that almost 30% of all U.S. households are occupied by a single person, raising serious concerns about long-term impacts.
In 1940, just 8% of people lived alone. That number had increased to 18% by 1970 and reached 29% last year.
— Steven Rattner (@SteveRattner) July 11, 2023
New York University sociologist Eric Klineberg wrote about the trend in his book “Going Solo” and stressed the importance of understanding the causes and effects.
“It’s just a stunning social change,” he said. “I came to see it as the biggest demographic change in the last century that we failed to recognize and take seriously.”
While there is a trove of historical evidence that people benefit socially, economically, physically, and mentally when they receive sufficient interaction with others, some experts claim that living alone is actually a sign of cultural progress.
Klinenberg even suggested that it was not “until women have control of their own lives and their own bodies” that historical evidence shows a significant spike in solitary living.
Author Bella DePaulo went further, claiming that it “can be a dream come true” to live alone, adding: “You decide when to go to sleep and when to get up, what and when to eat, what to watch or to listen to for entertainment, and how warm or cool your place will be.”
On the other hand, there is evidence that individuals who live alone as they grow older experience increased health problems and generally have a shorter life expectancy. Furthermore, many researchers note that the current trajectory is unsustainable in the long run.
As Wendy Wang of the Family Studies think tank explained: “I think it’s something we should be worried about. If we have fewer and fewer children, that means we have fewer people to work, to be consumers, to pay taxes.”
Of course, America is not the only nation experiencing this shift. A number of Western countries have even higher levels of one-person households. The national average in Sweden, Germany, and Finland is 40% or higher.