information

We use cookies to give you the best possible experience online. By continuing to use our website, you agree to receiving our cookies on your web browser. Visit our cookie policy page to find out more and how to change your cookie settings.

skip to main content

Catch up with the latest press releases from LV=

Large green heart

Number of Brits living alone has doubled in 40 years

Press release: 08/05/2014

  • Since 1974 the number of Brits living alone has more than doubled, with one fifth (19%) now living on their own
  • Today’s young adults (aged 20-30) are set to spend 15 years living alone
  • Solo dwellers spend £2,000 a year more on household bills than couples
  • A quarter (24%) of solo dwellers would run out of savings within a fortnight if they suddenly lost their income

More Brits are living alone for longer with little or no financial back up plan should things go wrong, according to research from protection specialist LV=.

The way that we live has changed dramatically over the last 40 years with the number of single households more than doubling to 8.7 million UK adults, compared to 3.8 million in 1974 [1]. This has happened against a steep increasing in living costs in recent years. The biggest rise in solo-dwellers is amongst those aged 35-44. In 1974 just 148,000 single households were made up of people aged between 35 and 44, this has since increased to 1.2 million [2].

Not only are more people living alone, but for longer too. Those in their 60s and 70s today will live alone for 10 years over the course of their life while today’s young adults (aged 20-30) can expect to live alone for a total of 15 years [3]. This is due to a combination of people living longer and lifestyle changes such as marrying later and higher divorce rates.

While rising divorce rates do contribute to this trend, of those living alone almost half (49%) do so either because they enjoy their independence, don’t feel ready to live with somebody else or prefer to live alone to help focus on their career [4].

However, the reality of living alone means that solo dwellers are faced with the full burden of the household’s living costs. People living alone fork out £1,826 a year more on housing and utilities than an individual in a couple, even with the single person’s council tax discount given to those living alone factored in. This is due to single households paying £1,392 more on mortgage and rent than someone living in a couple, £294 more on utilities and £140 more on household goods and services [5]. Overall, a single dweller will spend 6% more compared to someone living in a couple household. (For a full breakdown of costs see table below.)

The impact of having to spend more on the cost of living means that solo dwellers have less money to spend on dining out, shopping and leisure activities, and less to put aside as savings. Having higher outgoings than couples also impacts on solo dwellers’ ability to save. As a result, the average couple household will have £6,000 in savings – three times more than the average solo dweller who has just £2,000 to fall back on [6].

Most worryingly, almost two thirds of all solo dwellers (60%) don’t have a financial back up plan, such as income protection, that would enable them to fund their lifestyle should they be unable to work. Of those who have a back up plan, close to a third (31%) say they would use their savings if they lost their job [7].

Yet at the same time, if left to rely on their savings, almost a quarter (24%) of solo dwellers claim that their savings would run out within a fortnight, suggesting that many back up plans would be inadequate if they are unable to work for a sustained period of time [8].

Richard Rowney, LV= Managing Director, Life and Pensions said, “People’s living arrangements are changing and more people are choosing to hold onto their independence for longer and live alone. Whilst the freedom of living alone has many advantages, it is important to realise the financial cost of independence. A worrying number of people do not have a sound backup plan, such as income protection, that would help them to meet their financial commitments if they were unable to work.

“Although some say that they would live on their savings, it is clear that what they have managed to put aside would not stretch very far. As 8.7 million people now live alone, that is a huge number of people in the UK who would find themselves in a vulnerable position if they lost their source of income.

“Regardless of whether you live alone or with a partner, it is important to consider a protection policy that would enable you to carry on living in your home if the unexpected happened.”

ONS Expenditure and Food Survey, 2012: Breakdown of expenditure by living arrangement [9]

Living alone

Living as a couple
(per head expenditure)

Living alone vs. living as a couple

Category of goods

Monthly spend

Annual spend

Monthly spend

Annual spend

% difference

Annual spend difference

Rent & mortgage payments

£280

£3,360

£164

£1,968

71%

£1,392

Fuel, power, water and council tax

£88

£1,056

£64

£762

39%

£294

Communication

£42

£505

£34

£411

23%

£93

Alcohol & tobacco

£42

£499

£36

£431

16%

£69

Household goods & services

£93

£1,119

£82

£979

14%

£140

Food & non-alcoholic drinks

£127

£1,525

£130

£1,555

-2%

-£30

Clothing & footwear

£58

£691

£61

£727

-5%

-£36

Miscellaneous goods & services

£91

£1,097

£99

£1,188

-8%

-£91

Transport

£167

£2,002

£191

£2,293

-13%

-£291

Restaurants & hotels

£105

£1,256

£120

£1,446

-13%

-£189

Recreation & culture

£138

£1,657

£181

£2,167

-24%

-£510

Total consumer expenditure

£1,231

£14,768

£1,161

£13,927

6%

£841

Share with...

What are these?

  1. Google +1

For further information please contact:

LV=
Addy Frederick/ 020 8256 6909 / addy.frederick@lv.com

Third City
Nicola Forsyth / 020 3657 9767 / nicola@thirdcity.co.uk
Suzie Barrett / 020 3657 9773 / suzie@thirdcity.co.uk

Notes to editors

LV= commissioned Opinium Research to conduct an online survey of 2,004 UK adults between 21 to 24 March 2014. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria. Original survey data was used in conjunction with the Expenditure and Food Survey 2011-2012 extrapolated to 2013 on basis of 2008-2011 trends,

the General Household Survey 1973-2007, the Government Actuary’s Dept, 2008-based projections for marital and partnership status and the GAD 2010-based UK population projections by single-year age band.

About LV=

LV= employs 5800 people and serves 5.5 million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK’s largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and a range of trade unions.

Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.

Footnotes

  1. Figures are generated from economics mapping of three data sources including: the General Household Survey 1973-2007, the Government Actuary’s Dept. 2008-based projections for marital and partnership status, and the GAD 2010-based UK population projections by single-year age band (2010-based, through to 2034). Based on population figures of 56.2 million in 1974 and 63.7 million in 2012. Source: ONS, Mid-1971 to mid-2012 Population Estimates, Quinary age groups for Constituent Countries in the United Kingdom, estimated resident population.
  2. As per footnote one.
  3. Figures are generated from mapping together several data sources including: the Government Actuary’s Dept. 2008-based projections for marital and partnership status, ONS Mid-1971 to mid-2012 Population Estimates, and the GAD 2010-based UK population projections by single-year age band (2010-based, through to 2034).
  4. Based on answers given to ‘what best describes why you live alone?’ Sample: those living alone (total size: 390) taken from LV= commissioned Opinium Research based on an online survey of 2,004 UK adults between 21 to 24 March 2014. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.
  5. According to the ONS Expenditure and Food Survey, 2012 (adjusted to provide 2014 estimates by scaling-up costs by general consumer price inflation rates 2012-14): annually, couples living together spend (per head) £1,968 on mortgage and rent payments, £762 on fuel, power, water and council tax and £979 on household good and services annually – making a total of £3,709. Annually, single households spend £3,360 on mortgage and rent payments, £1,056 on fuel, power, water and council tax (utilities) and £1,119 on household good and services annually – making a total of £5,535. So £5,535 - £3,709 = single households spend £1,826 more than couple households.
  6. Based on median answers given to the question ‘how much do you have in savings?’ broken down by living arrangement. ‘Source: LV= commissioned Opinium Research to conduct an online survey of 2,004 UK adults between 21 to 24 March 2014. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.
  7. Based on the questions ‘in the event that you suddenly lose your job, how would you fund your living costs (e.g. rent / mortgage, food, transport etc.)?’ Of those living alone 36% answered they ‘don’t have a back up plan’ while 24% answered they ‘don’t know’ collectively totalling 60%. Of those living with a partner 23% don’t have a back up plan and 22% answered ‘don’t know’ collectively totalling 45%. Source: LV= commissioned Opinium Research to conduct an online survey of 2,004 UK adults between 21 to 24 March 2014. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.
  8. When asked if you had to live on your savings in the event you lost your job, how long do you think they would last before they ran out, 17% of solo dwellers answered ‘one week or less’ while 7% of solo dwellers answered ‘two weeks or less’ making a total of 24%. Source: LV= commissioned Opinium Research to conduct an online survey of 2,004 UK adults between 21 to 24 March 2014. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.
  9. Expenditure and Food Survey, 2012, adjusted by National Statistics’ Consumer Price inflation indices 2012-14. Categories excluded from this analysis are spending on health and education (both relatively small categories of spend, and strongly related to age), and the EFS category 13 ‘other expenditure’ (spending on cash gifts, licences and fines, and money spent abroad). Note however that the first category, namely ‘housing and rent’ is derived from Opinium Research (online survey of 2,004 UK adults). The question wording was “On a monthly basis, how much does your household spend a month on rent/mortgage (excluding utility bills and council tax)?” Base sizes were 390 single-adult households and 723 respondents living in couple-only households.