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Conclusion

The proportion of people living alone in New Zealand is low compared with other countries, but the number has been increasing and is projected to continue to grow.

The rising trend of people living alone has implications for the well-being of individuals and society, so there is much interest in understanding who lives alone and why.

Characteristics of people living alone

Age, marital status, income, household tenure, and ethnicity are the key characteristics that contribute to the likelihood of living alone. Nearly half (44 percent) of people who lived alone were aged 65 or older, and most (63 percent) were separated, divorced, or widowed.

Although total personal income is associated with living alone, our findings showed that the median income of people living alone ($25,001–30,000) was the same for those living with others.

Among ethnic groups, Pacific peoples and Asians were less likely to live alone. Cultural norms on living arrangements may be a reason for this.

People living alone were also more likely to be homeowners; they were likely to be women; and they were less likely to be employed.

Social outcomes

Living alone has advantages and disadvantages for social well-being. People who live alone are perceived to be at greater risk of social isolation, which can have negative impacts on social outcomes.

People who lived by themselves had a lower rate of overall life satisfaction and were more likely to feel lonely than people living with others. However, they were less likely to have been victims of crime.

Living alone does not necessarily mean being socially isolated. People who lived alone had higher rates of face-to-face contact with family and friends than those who lived with others.

Understanding the characteristics and social well-being of people who live alone will help government and non-government agencies develop the policies and services appropriate for them.

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