New Man will be home alone

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THEY ARE the new breed: the male Bridget Joneses. For years men have benefited from a surplus of 30-something single women eager to settle down and have a baby before it is too late, but the tables have turned, according to a new report.

By the year 2003, one in seven men will be forced to live the single life. The research shows that despite having dumped the "hell hole" bachelor pad and taking a new interest in home decoration and cooking, four out of ten men of all ages will be sitting at home alone, wishing they had a partner. The rising divorce rate, an increase in life expectancy, a tendency for people to delay marriage and the decrease in numbers of women compared with men are all to blame for men being forced to live alone.

The report, Men Living Alone, by Mintel, the market analyst, shows that by 2003, one- third of households will contain only one person.

There will be 8.28 million single-person households, an increase of 17 per cent. Despite the birth rate being 106:100 in favour of men, wars and more male infant deaths have meant that there has been surplus of women for most of the 20th century. In 1996 there was a surplus of 230,000 women aged 30 to39 over men aged 33 to 42. But by 2007 there will be an excess of nearly 600,000 men in their mid to late thirties.

The report, which included interviews with more than 800 people living alone, found that nearly one-quarter of men aged 35 to 44 were worried about not having many friends, and a third were apprehensive of a future without a partner. While the image of the bachelor pad strewn with empty take-away cartons still endures, men who lived alone were less likely to enjoy take-aways than those who lived with others. More than one-quarter of men under 35 said they loved cooking.

Peter York, the social commentator, said the report was dispiriting for men: "Women are starting to make the same choices as men have done, down dating for looks. Without status or being attractive, men will find themselves surplus to requirements."