From the NYT’s One’s a Crowd by Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone:
The decision to live alone is common in diverse cultures whenever it is economically feasible. Although Americans pride themselves on their self-reliance and culture of individualism, Germany, France and Britain have a greater proportion of one-person households than the United States, as does Japan. Three of the nations with the fastest-growing populations of single people — China, India and Brazil — are also among those with the fastest growing economies.
The mere thought of living alone once sparked anxiety, dread and visions of loneliness. But those images are dated. Now the most privileged people on earth use their resources to separate from one another, to buy privacy and personal space.
Compared with their married counterparts, single people are more likely to spend time with friends and neighbors, go to restaurants and attend art classes and lectures. There is much research suggesting that single people get out more — and not only the younger ones. Erin Cornwell, a sociologist at Cornell, analyzed results from the General Social Survey (which draws on a nationally representative sample of the United States population) from 2000 to 2008 and found that single people 35 and older were more likely than those who lived with a spouse or a romantic partner to spend a social evening with neighbors or friends.
The trend toward more single people in America — now 32 million — seem to be continuing. There’s a looming issue out there about aging and health care; as the op-ed notes, some unhealthy single people can become dangerously isolated. But for many of us living single seems like a great way to live — and we can socialize on our own terms whenever we want. With the number of single people increasing, there are even more like-minded potential friends who can meet up without worrying about a spouse or partner’s desires first.
It’s a fascinating op-ed about one of the most important demographic trends in the U.S.