Opinion Column

Census shows more Canadians alone and it’s not good for our health

By Ada Slivinski, 24 Hours Vancouver

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

According to the latest 2016 census data released this week, the share of Canadians living alone is higher than ever before.

In fact, solo dwellers represent the largest household group of all households in Canada sitting at 28.2 per cent. In 1951, only 1.8 per cent of the adult population lived alone.

Couples with children make up 27 per cent while couples without children make up 26 per cent. At the same time, more Canadian young adults are living with their parents: 34.7 per cent of those between the ages 20 and 34.

What’s more, the number households made up of childless couples is growing at a faster rate than households of couples with children.

Why? Statisticians say many of those single-person households are older women who (often due to their longer life expectancy) end up living alone. Also, young adults are settling down and getting married later in life, the divorce and separation rates are high and a pricey housing market means people often delay having children or have fewer than they would like.

A recent Gallup poll in the U.S. found that even while people are having fewer children, they still say their ideal number is 2.6. That number has remained relatively unchanged since 1970. We’re living alone, but we still crave family.

Is it a coincidence that as we live a more isolated home life, rates of depression and anxiety are going up? We’re social creatures and most of us thrive with family around.

A study of the world’s “Blue Zones” or the areas National Geographic found to have the longest-lived people found one of the things those who lived longest had in common was they put their family first.

“This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home (It lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.). They commit to a life partner (which can add up to three years of life expectancy) and invest in their children with time and love (They’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes),” according to the Blue Zones website.

These latest statistics show Canada is moving in the opposite direction and that can’t have good implications for our overall health and life expectancy.

The one buck to the trend is that multi-generational households (with three or more generations living under one roof) are on the rise, with many of them being immigrant families. We’d do well to learn a bit from them.