Lonely image of single people shown to be a myth

THE IMAGE of the single person living alone in a garret, lonely and depressed, eating fish fingers by candlelight, is a myth that can now be exploded.

Britain's 6 million single-person households have in the main a positive attitude to living alone, emphasising the freedom it gives them, rather than suffering loneliness and lack of security.

But some of the stereotypes do hold true. Single people do spend more per head than couples, particularly when it comes to eating, where smaller quantities are more expensive. They also tend to eat more 'comfort foods' such as cakes, biscuits and jam, though they balance this by spending a greater amount on fresh fruit.

A survey of 2,000 single adults by Mintel, the market research group, found that those who live alone, especially people under 55, were less tolerant of junk food than most. They were interested in healthy eating and were more likely to be vegetarians, though one-third of younger single people also felt it was not worth cooking a proper meal while on their own.

Even though their circumstances obliged them to spend more, they tended to be prudent. Women, particularly older women, were more likely to save and pay for everything in cash.

In spite of all the drawbacks, many highlighted positive aspects of living alone. Those who had never been married were happiest, while the divorced and separated emphasised the achievement they felt in coping, while, paradoxically, they were least likely to suffer from loneliness.

Widows and widowers were more likely to say they would prefer the security of having someone else around.

Single Person Households 1992: Single Living, Diverse Lifestyles; Mintel, 18-19 Long Lane, London EC1A 9HE; price pounds 895.

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