One-person households – revealing the hidden dynamics
The rise of one-person households is having far-reaching consequences throughout society, yet is getting relatively little attention.
Of the world’s households, around 15-20 percent are one-person households – more than doubled compared to the 1970’s and still growing. The highest rates of one-person households occur in Europe, where Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, and France report more than one-third of households comprised of just one person.
Japan, the United States, Canada, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand are lower than Europe, but still high with more than 25% of single-person households.
Although China’s proportion of 15+ percent one-person households is below the levels of developed countries, China has the world’s largest number – around 70 million registered households.
Economic development, increasing wealth and improved standards of living to play major roles in the increased incidence of one-person households. People can increasingly afford to live alone and growing numbers are choosing to pay for personal privacy, individualism, and freedom to live as they wish.
With better education and career opportunities, young professionals are delaying marriage and children. There is a change in traditional values and family structures – in many countries, living alone is viewed as a key step towards adulthood.
Also, with improved gender equality, women are increasingly able to make lifestyle choices, including whether they would like to live independently.
Last but not least – longer life and improved health in later life are also important factors giving rise to one-person households. With longer, healthier lives, people are often choosing to live alone, and in countries with old age social security, assistance and healthcare, the need to live within the extended family have become less.
The rise of one-person households is a significant global demographic transformation with wide-ranging consequences and implications. Below we explore four of them.
CONSUMPTION HABITS OF ONE-PERSON HOUSEHOLDS
Financially secure one-person households are able to enjoy many areas of consumption, such as clothes, leisure, and recreation – and they are more likely to access a broad range of services, such as beauty services and homecare.
Not only young females – but also young single males present significant potential for the beauty and personal care industry. Young singles are also more likely to spend their money on entertainment, electric gadgets, and vacations.
Products and services that can support ‘independence’ succeed in capturing this growing market segment. For example, home healthcare and homecare services sales are strongly driven by older single-person households who want to improve their quality of life.
One-person households prefer products that are simple, functional, and more likely to be disposed of versus being passed down or re-sold. They are more likely to purchase products in smaller packages and they are less attached to a certain brand or loyalty programme.
SINGLE SERVING RULES
One-person households tend to cook less and opt for fast meal solutions. In addition, dining alone no longer connotes physical and social isolation.
Single-serve packaging sales have significantly increased. “Stock up and save” offers are much less attractive (however – that has reversed during the COVID-19 pandemic period…). Some prefer to pay a premium for smaller packaging to avoid food waste and also to “shop fresh”.
After long hours at work, cooking for one is seen by some as a chore and food store meal sales are thriving as they fit “in-the-moment desires” – especially among millennials. Though these meals are easy and accessible, they are not necessarily characterised with low nutrition. Aligning with the healthy eating trend – supermarkets and even convenience stores emphasise more “nutritionally-balanced” meals.
INDIVIDUAL HOME APPLIANCES
The “bigger is better” trend is fading. The home appliances market is quickly transforming offerings to accommodate single-person households – smaller and preferably multi-functional.
Smaller cooking appliances such as rice cookers, multi-purpose food preparation, and food cooking appliances are becoming highly popular. Even smaller kitchen fridges and dishwashers are popular, including space-saving wall-mounted models.
SHARED LIVING SPACE
We continue to see a rise in shared spaces. Though many living units will be tailored to one person, the future of home may be flexible, communal and made relatively affordable through micro-leasing and shared amenities.
Young adults — particularly millennials – are seeking flexible, cost-effective living solutions with a sense of community, thus making co-living a more viable option.
How can we help?
ADK Insights combines both qualitative explorations of the rational and emotional factors that identify the needs of one-person households, along with a quantitative scale to validate their ideas, habits, and wishes.
To find out more about our dialogue with one-person households worldwide, please contact Nimrod.
26 years market intelligence experience. Specializes in bespoke solutions design, with focus on qualitative approaches, product clinics, and in-depth & creative result-oriented output.