It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“One of the most remarkable facts to emerge from [the 2000] census is that one out of every four households consists of one person only. The number of one-person households has been increasing steadily since 1940, when they accounted for roughly 7 percent of households; today, there are more people living alone than at any point in U.S. history.” (The Lonely American, by Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz)
I’ve never lived alone. I went straight from rooming with a friend in NYC to living with my now-husband. I’ve heard some people posit that you’re never truly ready to marry until you’ve lived alone—that’s how you find yourself, they’ll say—so maybe I missed an important step.
There are certainly days where I wish I had tried it out. I would have enjoyed hodgepodge meals of peanut butter and half an avocado and some toast (that’s the kind of feast I create when left to my own devices) and hours-long Law and Order: SVU marathons on my couch. But it never really made sense for me. New York City rents weren’t worth shouldering alone. And my roommate—aside from being one of my closest friends—was always up for an SVU marathon. Elliot Stabler? Yes, please.
These days many of my single friends live alone. They’re sick of sharing bathrooms and bills, and they’ve built up successful careers that afford them the means of shacking up solo.
Olds and Schwartz present their data in The Lonely American as evidence that people are taking independence to a place of loneliness.
“One-person households are most likely to be found in major metropolitan centers. Manhattan leads the pack. 48 percent of all households on the island are one-person households”
I’m a huge fan of Olds and Schwartz, but I don’t find the fact that almost half the residents of Manhattan live alone as that shocking or depressing. People get married later these days, so they don’t wait to be whisked away to a palace. They find a place they love and move in. At, let’s say, 28, some women feel they’ve outgrown labeling their food in the fridge.
On the flip side, people live longer too. So they might inhabit a one-person household after they’ve lost a spouse.
And obviously there are plenty more women now who choose not to marry or who’ve gotten divorced than there were back in 1940.
In my experience, people who live alone are often more social than those who live with one roommate. If you’re solo at home and want friendly contact, you’ve got no choice but to call a pal and get out into the world. When you live with a roommate, it’s easy to rely on that one person and not socialize outside your twosome.
What do you think? Does this statistic further the argument that we’ve become lonelier as a people? Or is it merely a sign of independence and taking care of yourself? And who do you think is more social, someone who lives alone or with a roommate?