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Social advantage and disadvantage of living alone

“The idea exists that it is not good for individuals to live alone given that humans are fundamentally social beings.” (Koopman-Boyden, Cameron, Davey, & Richardson, 2014)

This section looks at the social outcomes of people who live alone. The information on overall life satisfaction, feelings of loneliness, safety, crime, and self-rated health status come from the 2014 NZGSS.

Living alone affects overall life satisfaction

Life satisfaction is self-measured on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is the lowest and 10 is the highest level of satisfaction.

While most people rated their overall life satisfaction at 8 or higher, people living alone were less likely than those living with others to report this (59 percent compared with 64 percent, respectively).

Men living alone were less likely to rate their overall life satisfaction at 8 or higher, than women who lived alone (see figure 10). Men and women aged 25–64 who lived alone were less likely to feel satisfied with their lives than those who lived with others. At age 65+ the proportions satisfied with their lives were similar for those living alone and living with others.

Figure 10

Graph, Overall life satisfaction rating by sex and whether living alone, April 2014 to March 2015.

People living alone experience more feelings of loneliness

People who lived alone were more likely than those not living alone to say they had felt lonely, at least occasionally, in the last four weeks (50 percent compared with 34 percent, respectively). This was true for both men and women regardless of age (see figure 11).

Men and women aged 25–44 who lived alone were the most likely to have felt lonely, at least occasionally, in the last four weeks. However, feelings of loneliness decreased as people got older (see table 11in the ‘Available files’ box). 

Figure 11

Graph, People feeling lonely, by age group and whether living alone, April 2014–March 2015.

People who live alone have more face-to-face contact with family and friends

People living alone may be at risk of social isolation, which has a negative impact on social outcomes. However, results from the 2014 NZGSS showed that the proportion of people having face-to-face contact with family living in other households was higher for those living alone (61 percent) than those not living alone (51 percent) (see figure 12). A similar finding was true for non-face-to-face contact (video, phone, or written communication) with family who lived in other households. 

Figure 12

Graph, Mode of contact with family and friends, by living or not living alone, April 2014–March 2015.

People living alone more likely to feel unsafe

In this section we look at whether people feel safe when staying home alone at night.

Men, whether they live alone or with others, feel safe when they spend a night alone at home. Only 2 percent each of men living alone and not living alone felt unsafe (see figure 13).

Women who lived alone were more likely to feel unsafe when home alone at night than men who lived by themselves (6 percent compared with 2 percent).

For women, those living alone were more likely to feel safe staying home alone at night than women living with others. A smaller proportion of women living alone (6 percent) felt unsafe home alone than those who lived with others (9 percent). 

Figure 13

Graph, People feeling unsafe at home at night, by sex and whether living alone. April 2014–March 2015.

People who live alone less likely to experience crime

Just over 1 in 10 (11 percent) of people living alone had been a victim of crime in the last 12 months. This is 3 percentage points lower than those who lived with others. Women who lived alone were less likely than men living alone to experience crime (9 percent compared with 14 percent) (see figure 14). Women living alone were also less likely to experience crime than women who lived with others. 

Figure 14

Graph, People who experienced crime, by sex and whether living alone, April 2014–March 2015.

People living alone rate their health status lower

People living alone were less likely to rate their health status as very good to excellent than people living with others (51 percent compared with 62 percent). The same was true regardless of sex: men or women living alone were less likely (51 percent each) to rate their health status as very good to excellent than men or women who live with others (62 percent each) (see figure 15). 

Figure 15

Graph, People with very good to excellent self-assessed health status, by sex and whether living alone, April 2014–March 2015.

Younger people who live alone report better health

Results show a different picture for younger people who live alone. People aged 15–24 years who lived alone were more likely to report very good to excellent health status than their counterparts who lived with others. Nearly all men and women aged 15–24 and living alone rated their health as very good to excellent (90 percent of men and 92 percent of women) (see table 15 in the ‘Available files’ box). In comparison, for people of the same age group and living with others, only 69 percent of men and 72 percent of women said their health was very good to excellent.

Less than half of men in the older age groups who lived alone reported very good to excellent health (47 percent of those aged 45–64 and 42 percent of those 65+). For men who lived with others, the rates were 61 percent for men aged 45–64 and 47 percent for those 65+. 

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