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Survey shows proportion of one-parent households tripled over 40 years

Released: 07 March 2013 Download PDF

A report published today to mark 40 years of the General Lifestyle Survey shows the proportion of one-parent households tripled over four decades.

The 2011 General Lifestyle Survey Overview report by the Office for National Statistics reveals how society changed between 1971 and 2011. The data shows:

  • Over four decades, household size declined from 2.91 persons to 2.35.

  • The proportion of one-parent households tripled, and the proportion of families with only one dependent child increased by around a third.

  • The proportion of adults living alone almost doubled over the period, with the increase occurring in the first 30 years (between 1973 to 1998). Adults aged 25-44 were five times more likely to be living alone in 2011 (10%) than they were in 1973 (2%). 

  • Over the last 30 years the proportion of women who were married has fallen by a third while the proportion cohabiting has tripled. 

  • During the first 20 years of the survey (1972 to 1991) the proportion of people reporting a long-standing illness or disability increased from two-fifths to a third of all people, but has remained relatively stable since. 

  • Although cigarette smoking has halved over the last 37 years (from 45% in 1974 to 20% in 2011) the number of cigarettes smoked by men and women has changed little since the early 1980’s. 

  • The proportion of men and women drinking on 5 or more days a week fell from 23% of men in 1998 to 16% in 2011 and from 13% to 9% of women. Men and women aged 45 and over are more likely to drink on 5 or more days a week than younger people. 

  • The proportion of households with a telephone (landline or mobile) has increased from less than half 40 years ago to almost all households by 2011. 

  • Similarly, by 2011, 98% of households had central heating compared to 37% in 1972.

  •  Forty years ago only half of all households had access to a car or van, in 2011 this had increased to three-quarters. Over the 40 years households with access to a single car or van has remained similar, but the proportion of households with access to multiple cars has trebled.

  •  Access to a computer has risen continuously between 1984 and 2011, from 9% of households to 80%.

In 1971 the General Household Survey (GHS) was created to be a wide ranging Government service to gather information covering several main themes at the same time. These themes have remained constant over the 40 years of the survey:

  • Population

  • Housing

  • Employment

  • Education

  • Health

Over the past 40 years the survey has monitored changes in the demographic, social and economic characteristics of households, families and people in Great Britain.

Also published today is An overview of 40 years of data (General Lifestyle Survey Overview - a report on the 2011 General Lifestyle Survey).

Background notes

  1. The General Lifestyle Survey, 2011 presents information on a range of topics from people living in private households in Great Britain.
  2. Issued by: Office for National Statistics, Government Buildings, Cardiff Road, Newport NP10 8XG

    Media contact:
    Tel  Heath Jeffries    01633 456 289 
    Mobile:    07789 924 241 

    Statistical contact:
    Fiona Dawe, Editor, GLS Overview Report
    Tel:  01633 45 5296


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Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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