Why are so many people in Scotland living alone?

Scotland could have one million single person households by 2024 if population trends continue, a report has found.
A growing number of Scots are living alone. Picture: PAA growing number of Scots are living alone. Picture: PA
A growing number of Scots are living alone. Picture: PA

The annual survey by the National Registrars of Scotland revealed the number of people living on their own has risen by almost 20 per cent in the past 14 years. Nearly 900,000 households out of 2.4 million are home to just one person, compared to 722,000 in 2001.

The rise is, in part, explained by Scotland’s ageing population. By 2039, 40 per cent of those living north of the border will be of pensionable age. With their children having grown up, many elderly people are left alone when their partner dies.

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The rising trend of single person households is mirrored across the UK. An extra 1.7million people will be living alone in England over the next 25 years. And despite property prices in the city, London had the highest proportion of one person households.

While the ageing nature of society is key to explaining the rise, so to is the number of younger people choosing to live alone.

The Office for National Statistics has noted that many younger professional people living and working in a city will also have a family home elsewhere.

The trend is evident in Edinburgh and Glasgow, home to the largest number of students and graduate employees in Scotland.

The total number of households in the capital is projected to rise over the next 25 years by 23 per cent, or 47,000 homes - a greater numerical increase than any other council area in Scotland. The largest single contributing factor is the growing number of adults living alone.

In Glasgow, the percentage of single households is expected to reach 50 per cent by 2039. In comparison, households with children in the city are predicted to shrink overall and account for 17 per cent of all households by 2039.

So what’s the appeal of living alone? For Gillian, a 31-year-old media professional from Glasgow, independence is the big bonus.

“It’s nice coming home after a stressful day and having been surrounded by people to have some calm and quiet and time to myself,” she told The Scotsman. “Also living alone means you don’t have to worry about conflicting shifts and interrupting each other’s sleep, so it’s better in that respect.

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“The independence and freedom of it is definitely a bonus - being able to do what you want when you want without interfering with anyone else, or them interfering with you. Not fighting over the remote control is definitely a positive! You can live by your own rules.”

The downsides are economic. “It costs almost as much for one person to live somewhere as it does for two, so the costs are almost doubled and so it can be quite a burden for one person and I have to make sacrifices in other areas of my life,” she added.

“You have no one else to rely on so have to be self-reliant financially and with dealing with any problems within the home. That can be challenging, but teaches you how to survive on your own.”