A vision of 2016: a lonely and unhealthy nation

A vision of 2016: a lonely and unhealthy nation
Douglas Fraser

Almost one in five Scots will be living alone within a decade, according to Scottish Executive research being published today.

Around 350,000 of older people in 2016 will be living alone, with the numbers of elderly people rising and more of them being widowed.

But most striking is a much sharper rise in those under 65 who are living alone, up from fewer than 300,000 in 1991 to nearly 600,000 in 2016.

One of the biggest social changes facing the nation, solo living poses major challenges to public services, including care services, housing, pensions and health – as people become disconnected from families and loneliness takes its toll with depression and anxiety.

The trends have been highlighted in the Executive’s Futures Project, which examines Scottish and international trends in lifestyle, health, technology and the economy.

Jack McConnell, the first minister, will today outline the project, arguing the country should play to its international strength in education.

Eight research papers have been compiled, covering a wide range of trends that could define the Scotland of 10 to 20 years from now.

There are warnings that the increased lifespan will not necessarily be accompanied by healthy old age, because of the problems of disease, many stemming from obesity.

It projects also that health inequalities between the richest and poorest parts of Scottish society will get wider unless government action takes effect.

Solo living is the most striking finding of these life patterns partly because people are delaying long-term relationships, but also because those relationships are more prone to failure, with people returning to solo living later in adult life.

The report’s authors found those living solo report poorer health and are more likely to smoke and drink than others. They are less likely to work, and reckon they are worse off after they move from family into solo living.

The Futures Project: trends analysis: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2006/05/22134120/0