Living alone can have a variety of connotations. For some, it represents freedom and financial independence, the opportunity to avoid having to make compromises. However, for others living alone may be synonymous with loneliness and isolation within society.
TV and film have presented us with a conflicted view of living alone. Popular shows including ‘The Big Bang Theory’ derive their comedy from the pitfalls of living with difficult or inflexible roommates whereas other hit-shows like the timeless favourite ‘Friends’ emphasise the potential fun of living with your best friends. Equally, romantic comedies often begin with sad scenes depicting the isolation of living alone as a singleton in a big city - like the iconic comedic shot of Bridget Jones singing 'All By Myself'.
Undoubtedly many around the world may want to live alone but simply don't have the option. The ability to pay 100% of the rent on an apartment demonstrates a certain financial stability which many of us dream of. Despite the recent recession, in many countries property prices remain high, so getting onto the property ladder as a single income can seem impossible. In this case, a high level of single-occupancy housing in a city can indicate either lower property costs or a higher net income.
Increasingly living alone in your 20s has become a symbol of success, instead of a failure to settle down. People are getting married later in life, and even those in relationships may prefer to keep their own space (Helena Bonham-Carter and her partner Tim Burton have famously lived in adjoining houses for over 10 years, proving that you can have a successful relationship and still enjoy your own space).
These top ten countries have the highest percentage of people who live alone, whether by choice or by necessity; we've had a look at the demographics to get an idea of why so many people live without company in these countries.
10 Brazil, 10%
9 Kenya, 15%
8 South Africa, 24%
7 Russia, 25%
6 Canada, 27%
5 U.S., 28%
4 Italy, 29%
3 Japan, 31%
2 Britain, 34%
1 Sweden, 47%
Nearly half of all Swedish households are single-occupancy. Living alone in Sweden is arguably the norm because the option is so readily available - there is an abundance of affordable single-occupancy apartments (after over 1 million housing units were built in the 60s). A prosperous welfare state also means that young Swedes can expect to move into their own apartment once they graduate high-school.
However, there are problems attached to this lonely way of living. Because of the single person trend, 'Färdknäppen' has been set up in Stockholm - a community-owned ‘collective house’. The concept allows Swedes to have their own apartments in addition to access to communal space, so that occupants can have the ‘best of both worlds’. Although this type of living is far from the norm in Sweden it does show the innovative solutions which are being devised for an increasingly lonely population.
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