By Angie Argabrite, Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at 9:01 am.
In the U.S., the number of folks living alone is almost eight times greater now than in 1950. Today, when people tend to couple up and marry later and find divorce more acceptable and accessible if things don’t work out, 51 percent of Americans are single. That translates to roughly one in four living alone, and not a few of them are unhappy about it. A new book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, calls the living alone trend the biggest demographic shift since the Baby Boom. Many who live alone praise the scenario for allowing them to live by their own rules (staying up all night to read, say), celebrate their quirks (like speaking French aloud during breakfast) and acknowledge their deepest desires (such as single motherhood by choice). Though it has become a cultural meme, even a joke, perhaps the biggest fear of those living alone is the possibility that they may die alone. In Japan, that possibility has become so common that a cleaning company has sprung up specifically for the purpose of cleaning up badly decomposed bodies. Regardless of the end results, recent research out of Finland does suggest that those who live alone might find themselves more prone to depression and other mental health problems, with single men singled out as most likely to take poor care of themselves. Those in good relationships enjoy a bolstered immune system and a longer life, suggesting that the growing “together but apart” arrangement may offer the best of both worlds. Think, too, of the benefits for brands and marketers—dual households can mean dual purchases.