It’s every teenager’s dream to someday move out of their parent’s home and enjoy the spoils of independent living. But it soon becomes practically every struggling working-class person’s burden to meet the demands of supporting themselves after they've outgrown the comforts of the familial nest. Although we're a naturally social and interdependent species, independence and personal space are highly valued commodities in the modern world. And if you've got the means, modern society dictates that adulthood is defined by independence and having your own place to call a home.
Economic circumstances in many parts of the world, however, have given rise to house sharing, flatmate culture, communal living and now, the boomerang generation. That is, young adults who return to their parent’s home under the pressures of financial instability. This means that poorer countries may host fewer single-person households.
People living in single-person households has become increasingly common, however, in some parts of the world - particularly in populated cities, despite the fact that in these areas it isn't the easiest thing to accommodate, nor the most affordable. Places where individuals choose to live alone are typically those where people can afford the expense. These are places that are more economically stable, boast more job opportunities, and perhaps harbor a stronger sense of autonomy — whether culturally, socially, or both — than in other areas. They're also, of course, places that boast a high number of single people.
The following list looks into the eight countries where people live alone most often based on statistics gathered by Euromonitor International, a data and research report service, and the U.S. Census.
8 South Africa: 24%
In South Africa, 24 percent of households are single. Recent studies show that single-parent households are now becoming the norm in this country and this is partly due to the fact that marriages are considered too expensive, causing many couples to choose not to wed or live together. Still, it’s evident that many South Africans must feel a strong sense of autonomy.
7 Russia: 25%
In Russia, 25 percent of all households are lived in by just one. While large households are very common in Russia, it's still a place where a high percentage of individuals live alone.
6 Canada: 26%
26 percent of households are single in Canada and like South Africa, Canadians are experiencing a rise in single parent households, particularly in single father households. While this definitely attests to the changing views and practices surrounding marriage and family life in the country, 8 in 10 single parent households in Canada are still headed by women.
5 United States: 28%
In the United States, 28 percent of households are comprised of just one person. Since close to half of Americans are single themselves, it makes sense that independent living should be so common. After all, in some of America’s largest cities, the percentage of households that are single is on the rise. Big cities like Manhattan or Washington DC are two major areas where a full 50 percent of households comprise just one person.
4 Italy: 29%
In Italy, 29 percent of all households are single. This may be a bit surprising considering the economic crisis that struck the country, leaving many jobless. Yet, it is still a country that maintains single households in greater numbers than most. In Italy, still a predominantly Catholic country, people are marrying increasingly later in life - largely due to the expense of a traditional wedding. This is a trend which translates to a larger population of single and financially independent young people.
3 Japan: 31%
In Japan, 31 percent of all households are single ones. In recent years, the highly populated capital, Tokyo, has seen the mounting rate of single households most prominently. It is very common for people to live alone in relatively cramped quarters and this is the growing norm for adults of all ages.
2 Britain: 34%
34 percent of households in Britain are lived in by single people. The number of single households has risen drastically by 50 percent since the 1990’s, according to recent studies. Of course, this is putting a premium on property prices in heavily populated areas; about 2.5 million people own a home but live alone.
1 Sweden: 47%
47 percent of households in Sweden are single ones and this percentage beats any other country’s by a considerable amount. The trend of postponing marriage or cohabitation, or opting out altogether, contributes to the high level of single households in the country. Furthermore, independence is now a marker for success in this wealthy country. This is particularly true in large cities. In Sweden, as in the other 'loneliest' countries, is this rising trend something that city housing infrastructure can continue to support? It's worth considering, too, the implications solitary living will have on this country's population both socially and culturally.
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