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What are some reasons people live alone?

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Husnain Yousaf
Husnain Yousaf Sep 28, 2020
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The number of people living alone has skyrocketed. What's driving the phenomenon?

History tells us that human societies, at all places and times, have organized themselves around living with other people, not independently. But now not so much.

Throughout the past half-century, our species has embarked on a remarkable social experiment. For the first time in human history, excellent numbers of people -- in all ages, in all areas, of every political persuasion -- have started settling down as singletons.

According to contemporary sociology until the second half of the previous century, most people married young and parted only at death. If death came early, we remarried fast; if overdue, we moved in with family, or they with us.

Now we marry later. We divorce and remain single for years or decades. We survive our partners and do whatever we can to prevent moving in with other people -- including our kids. So what's driving it? The wealth generated by economic development and the social security provided by modern welfare conditions have empowered the spike. One reason that more people live alone than ever before is they can manage to.

According to Durkheim, this cult grew out of the transition from traditional rural communities to modern industrial cities.

What's driving this change to living alone?
Creative contributions

list of pros and contras

Martina Pesce
Martina Pesce Nov 05, 2020
  • no restriction of your freedoms at home
  • no stress from compromising
  • possibility to express your behavior freely thanks to the absence of others' (even involuntary) judgment and consequent better knowledge of the self
  • possibility of planning social interaction instead of having them even when not desired
  • having an uncontaminated safe place
  • in this century open relationships are having a peak: not living together surely help

  • loneliness
  • economic point of view
  • tiredness out if the bureaucracy of having a house
  • in case of urgent need, no one can assist (even if by now you can call an ambulance by asking google or Alexa, but sometimes you can't speak)
  • you miss the intimate, intense deep experience of coliving
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Collectivism vs individual rights and freedom

Povilas S
Povilas S Sep 29, 2020
I see this phenomenon of choosing to be alone as partly politically partly culturally influenced. Contemporary human society, at least the Western world is moving towards values more oriented to individuals and their rights. Individual freedom is among the highest values in western societies and western influences are quickly affecting the East as well. On one hand, this seems to be influenced by capitalism and the right-wing politics with which the idea that everything must be private is pushed along. But on the other hand, left-wing politics influence this even more by emphasizing individual rights of the minorities and/or social groups who were long suppressed and experienced social inequality - this affects whole other, and more important - cultural and artistic field, through which ideas settle in human psyche more quickly and easily. Nobody likes to be repressed, everyone wants freedom, and compassion is quickly felt towards whoever fights for their freedom. So this is kind of a meeting point of the left and right - individual freedom, just approached from different perspectives and thus this value is highlighted through various means in contemporary culture. And when this value is highlighted in surrounding culture it's much easier to highlight it in your personal system of values and start considering things from there. In the past, even in the West, traditional values (that are almost a synonym for collectivism) were more highlighted. Christian values, or generally values of organized and strictly structured religions that have little room for individualism were more widespread. Now many more people are atheists, so-called free believers, spiritual but not religious, etc. Nationalism was more widespread in the past, now globalization and interconnectedness are prevailing and this makes people focus less on confined units such as nation or even family. This staying alone phenomenon could be seen as a balancing force to historical emphasis on traditional communal values. Maybe it's already gone a bit too far the other direction, but in that case, balance will be brought again sooner or later.
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Loneliness and Living Alone: The Link Is Not What You Think

Mohammad Shazaib
Mohammad Shazaib Sep 29, 2020
The writers of the book Loneliness explain their concern that the intrinsic gregariousness of humans is not taken seriously enough by Western societies. "The latest statistics indicate that ever-greater numbers of people are embracing a life in which they are separated from each other physically, and maybe emotionally." The increasing number of people who live alone is among the evidence they cite in support of that fear.
A new study of loneliness, based on a broad sample of German adults, looked at the similarity between loneliness, living alone, and living single. The study was based on data from more than 16,000 Germans between the ages of 18 and 103, comprising more than 10,000 households, collected in 2013.
The authors found that concentrating on that core aspect of their living arrangement and not letting other variables muddy the picture when they compared individuals who lived alone to individuals who lived with others, they found that the people who lived alone were less lonely.
The research does not show that living alone is a cure for loneliness. Among the people who live alone are those (we don’t know exactly how many) who chose to live that way. If people who prefer living with other people were urged to live alone, we don’t know what would happen. Maybe they would make an effort to form and maintain the kinds of social ties that keep loneliness at bay. Or maybe they would just end up lonely. Reference https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-single/201609/is-living-alone-the-unlikely-answer-loneliness
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Has the idea of loneliness evolved with time?

Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Sep 30, 2020
It is true that in the modern economic system, it is easier for people to live alone and not succumb to the orthodox institution of marriage. As the societies have evolved to be more open, progressive and connected than before, it is obvious that the compulsion by which an individual was expected to tie up with another individual in a lifelong manner does not exist to that degree now. Even in societies that were conservative a few decades ago, the rate of divorce is gradually increasing, and a lot of people live on their own than any time before in the history of mankind. Why might it have been so?

The answer might be multifaceted. When we look at the cultural history of societies around us, we see assimilation of a lot of notions regarding human relationships. On top of that, the modern capitalist market has explicitly moulded the popular imagination such that people no longer think that they need other people to be happy, they think they need more success ( as defined in capitalism by the accumulation of assets and gains of profits). A stark example can be seen in the Japanese megacities where people get so busy working ( and capitalism subtly tells us that to work is to worship, and MONEY IS GOD) day in day out that they virtually have no friends to share/laugh/play/mourn with. As such, there have been a lot of new forms of businesses which offer even hourly 'human bonding' session with perks like hugging and kissing. Such cultural shifts then pose another question: do people really want to live alone or are they just being played by the economy to do so?

Another thing to consider when we say that more and more people are choosing to live alone is the very framing of the proposition itself. If we look around ourselves now, we might be physically lonely but it does not mean that we are devoid of any human connection. Social media and the ease of connectivity has virtually omitted all distance from the world, and though it is not the same as being present with another person in flesh and blood, being in touch via internet serves as a decent proxy for a relationship. Given these instances, we can say that being physically separate does not necessarily make us alone. Not when we have skype and Facebook and Viber and WhatsApp and all the other platforms where we can directly share ourselves with others. Hence, by the virtue of a capitalist mode of world-operation, we can say that people want to live alone because no more they are in need of 'that other person' to not feel lonely.

Some people might have entirely different reasons for wanting to leave alone. For example, sages and hermits live alone for purely unconventional reasons: they are not made for societal living and social engagement, they detest crowds and norms that govern crowds. However, until and unless a person is truly liberated in a spiritual sense, there is little room for happiness in that kind of separation. If you have watched the movie 'Into the wild', you would get this point.
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General comments

Darko Savic
Darko Savic4 years ago
It would be useful to see some study results to back some of the claims. Have the numbers of people living alone really skyrocketed?
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 years ago
Darko Savic Agreed! Here are some stats: The number of people living on their own went up by 16% (absolute number 7.7 million) from 1997 to 2017 in the UK. However, the population in the UK increased only by 13%. There is a rise in the number of older people living alone. The number of people from the age group 45- to 64-year-old living on their own increased by 53% from 1997 to 2017. On the other hand, the number of people living alone from the age group 25 to 44 decreased by 16% from 1997 to 2017. It was also noted that more people in this age group are divorced or single than there were 15 years ago.

On average in the UK, people living alone are less happy (score 6.8) compare to the couples without children (score 7.7), less satisfied with their lives (score 6.9 vs 7.9 of the couples without children), and slightly more anxious (score 3.4 vs 2.9 of the couples without children). [1]

In Finland, in 1990, about 12% of the population lived alone. That has risen to 22% in 2018. [2]

Although this is from an old study (2010), the world average of the people living alone increased from 9% to 12% from 1990 to 2010. They have predicted a steep growth over the coming years. [3]

References: 1.https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/families/articles/thecostoflivingalone/2019-04-04#:~:text=Living%20alone%20set%20to%20increase&text=By%202039%2C%20the%20number%20of,rise%20to%2010.7%20million2.&text=While%20the%20number%20of%20people,53%25%20over%20the%20same%20period.
2. http://www.stat.fi/til/perh/2018/02/perh_2018_02_2020-01-31_kat_007_en.html
3. https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/ageing/LivingArrangements.pdf

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 years ago
I think the session attaches a negative shade to living alone. In order to better understand why people live alone, the session should be unbiased. People who are living alone out of their will, will have good reasons. I agree that not all bad relationships are bound to end but the technological advancements and the social security help decrease the fear of loneliness and helplessness that remain after a relationship ends. Abusive and toxic relationships exist and they existed in the past, too. The technological advancements and the social security that we see today do not drive the decision of separation but merely facilitate it.
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