An increasing number of Canadians are choosing to live alone, hitting the highest rate on record in 2021.
New census data released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday revealed that 4.4M people lived alone in 2021 -- a 1.7M jump from the same data collected in 1981. This means 15% of all adults aged 15 and older are living solo, which is the highest percentage ever on record. Households comprised of just one person now account for 29.3% of all Canadian households -- the highest share of any household type.
"The continued rise of one-person households -- which occurred despite the economic downturn and housing affordability issues in some areas -- is almost entirely explained by the aging of the population," the StatCan report reads."
The report notes that the growth of one-person households has a direct effect on housing demand, particularly on the demand for apartments. In 2021, the majority of single households -- 56% -- lived in an apartment with 32% in a building with fewer than five storeys, 18% in a building with five or more storeys, and 6% in a duplex.
Although the proportion of single households is high for Canada, the number of people who live alone is actually relatively low compared to other countries. When looking at G7 countries, for example, only the U.S. has a lower percentage of solo households -- and a marginally lower percentage at that -- with 28.5% of households belonging to a single resident in 2021. Other countries like Finland, Germany, and Norway, have more than four in 10 households as one-person households.
Choosing to live alone has taken off among mid-adulthood Canadians, with the percentage of people aged 35 to 44 who do so doubling from 5% in 1981 to 10% in 2021.
"In contrast, the share of women aged 65 and older living alone has decreased over time, owing to gradual convergence in the life expectancies of men and women," the report reads. "This is allowing older adults -- particularly women -- to live as part of a couple for longer."
Living alone is typically highest among older adults, with 42% of people aged 85 and older in private households living alone, compared to just 7% of people aged 20 to 24.
As for where people are living alone the most, Quebec is the most popular with 19% of adults living alone. Nunavut on the other hand, has the lowest rather, with just 8% living alone. Ontario and Alberta also had relatively low shares, with 12% and 13%, respectively, living alone.
"Differences in sociodemographic characteristics, economic circumstances and housing conditions are among the factors contributing to these variations in solo living across Canada over time," the report states. "For instance, Nunavut's relatively younger population and high fertility contribute to fewer people living alone there, in addition to housing problems related to adequacy, affordability and overcrowding. In contrast, Ontario's low proportion of solo dwellers may reflect higher average shelter costs and the elevated proportion of young adults living with their parents in the province."
Roommate Living is Growing Quickly
Canadians choosing to live alone may be more prevalent than ever, but households comprised of roommates are the fastest growing household type in the country. Roommate households, defined as two or more people living together, increased by 54% from 2001 to 2021. But perhaps unexpectedly, roommate living situations only represent 4% of all households in Canada.
Multi-generational living, on the other hand, represented a slightly larger 7%. These households have similarly grown in popularity over the last 20 years, shooting up 45% since 2001.
As to be expected, the number of young adults living with at least one parent saw a bump across several of Canada's urban centres. In typical fashion, Ontario's urban centres have the highest prevalence of this, particularly in Oshawa where a staggering 49% of young adults lived with their parents in 2021. But even typically more affordable provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan saw bumps in the number of young adults living with a parent in larger cities. Red Deer saw a 7% increase, Calgary a 5% increase, Edmonton a 4% increase, and Saskatoon a 3% increase. Even Regina, considered one of the most affordable metro areas in the country, experienced a 2% jump.
Living situations for children aged 14 and under didn't see much change overall from previous years, but there was one specific subset that saw a slight shift. For children living in a one-parent household, the share who were living with their father now sits at 21% -- a 14% difference from 1981.