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5.5 million: Record numbers of Spaniards living alone

The Local Spain
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5.5 million: Record numbers of Spaniards living alone
Photo: Kipras Štreimikis/Unsplash.

Over five million households are now occupied by people living alone in Spain, a record high that reveals underlying demographic trends in a country renowned for being social and family-orientated.

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Over 5 million out of Spain's 48.6 million inhabitants now live alone in Spain, according to data from Spain's National Statistics Institute (INE). The almost 5.5 million figure is a record high.

INE figures also revealed that over a quarter (28 percent) of the total housing stock in Spain is now occupied by single residents.

Spain has, officially speaking, over 19 million homes. The most common living arrangement in Spain is the two-person household, which accounts for 30 percent of all households in Spain. This is a number that has been steadily decreasing over many years and is a reflection of the shifting demographics in the country.

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The average household size, as of January 1st 2024, is 2.49 people per property -- almost identical to the EU average. This represents a stark fall over time in Spain.

In the 1990s, it was far more common for each household to have four, five or even more people living in it, and there were often inter-generational households that had parents, grandparents, and children.

READ ALSO: The real reasons why Spaniards don't want to have children

Back then, the average household size was 3.26 people per property.

By the year 2000, however, the downward trend was already building momentum. By the beginning of the century, there were 2.86 people per household on average, according to the national average reported by the INE.

This demonstrates the changing nature of Spanish living arrangements over time, but also the shrinking size of families more broadly and several sociological trends underpinning long-term demographic change in Spain.

READ ALSO: Older and more diverse: What Spain's population will be like in 50 years

An increasingly ageing population combined with falling birthrates mean there are more and more single people living alone in Spain.

In particular, an ageing population alongside increasing life expectancy means that older Spaniards are more likely to live alone. This disproportionately impacts Spanish women.

"We know that women's life expectancy is longer than men's, the chances of being widowed are higher for women," Antonio López Gay, professor of Geography at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, told El País.

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But it's not just older people living alone. Among younger Spaniards too, more people are living alone than before. Part of this could come from changing relationship models. There seems to be a growing desire among Spaniards to have casual dating experiences without the commitment of a relationship.

A study by the University of Málaga concludes that some young people in Spain now view love as an object of 'consumption', so forming solid relationships that would have previously led to cohabitation becomes less likely.

There are also currently more singletons than ever - 14 million Spaniards - 52 percent of whom are men and 48 percent women, according to INE figures.

López Gay also told El País that the rise in the number of single-person households is also partly due to "inertia", linked to population structure and changing relationship structures. "If we take a broader perspective, we see that there are more people of adult age living alone, this is due to social transformations: divorces, fewer people living with a partner.... This transition in Spain came a little later than in northern European countries, but we have already come a long way."

READ ALSO: Spain's population inches closer to 49 million with 900 new residents a day

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