Living alone: One-person households in Asia

Wei-Jun Jean Yeung, Adam Ka-Lok Cheung

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The one-person household (OPH) is the fastest-growing type of household in many regions of the world, but no systematic work on it has been done outside of Europe and North America. This special collection consists of ten articles that examine the living-alone phenomenon in Asia.

Objective: This paper summarizes their findings, highlights unique features found in Asia, and discusses the implications of the increase in OPH in Asia for individuals’ well-being and societies’ resource distribution.

Methods: Census data are used for an international comparison of the prevalence of one-person households.

Results: The papers reveal vast heterogeneity across regions and within nations. While widows remains a major group of OPH, the rising prevalence of OPH in Asia is mainly fueled by the increase of young urban adults who live alone as a consequence of delayed or declining marriage, increasing divorce, and increasing geographic mobility. Many of them are working class individuals or migrant workers. The impact of living alone varies by cultural, demographic, and policy contexts. The papers identify groups that are potentially vulnerable to social isolation and financial distress and challenge the generally negative stereotypes of the OPH living arrangement.

Conclusions: OPH will continue to increase in Asia in the next few decades due to the rapid aging trend, declining marriage and fertility rates, and increase in divorce and migration. More theoretical development and empirically-based work is needed to understand the complexity and impact of such a living arrangement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number40
Pages (from-to)1099-1112
Number of pages14
JournalDemographic Research
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2015

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Demography


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