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News & Advice

Modern Britons 'travel more and live longer'

People are living longer, taking more foreign holidays and staying in education longer compared with 40 years ago, according to a report published today.

The Social Trends report, published by the Office for National Statistics, paints a picture of a nation very different from how it was when the first report appeared in 1970.

Its editor, Matthew Hughes, said: "We are now living longer, less of us get married and household sizes are smaller. More of us have cars, women are having babies later in life and more of our household spending goes on housing, water and fuel."

Researchers found life expectancy has risen since 1970 when men on average lived to the age of 68.7 and women to 75. The comparable figures now are 77.8 for men and 81.9 for women.

More detailed figures show we have not all got more healthy with a recent rise in the number of adults judged as obese.

In 1994 15.7% of people had a body mass index of 30 or more, classifying them as obese, but that figure now stands at 24.5%.

The growth in foreign travel is also tracked in the report which shows that in 1971 UK residents made 6.7 million holiday trips abroad. By 2008 that figure was 45.5 million.

Some things have not changed though, with Spain and France still the most popular destinations for British holidaymakers.

In 1981 the two countries accounted for 49% of all destinations. By 2008 that had fallen slightly to 44%.

The rise in people living alone has been well documented and these figures show the proportion of one person households in Great Britain rising from 18% of all households in 1971 to 29% in 2009.

There have been major changes in the number of students in higher education, rising from 621,000 in 1970/71 to 2.5 million in 2007/08.

Another noticeable change is the decline in manufacturing industry. In 1978 it accounted for almost a third (28.5%) of UK jobs. By 2009 that figure was one in 10 (10%).

In the same period the percentage of people working in finance and business services doubled from 10.5% to 20.8%

There has been a change in the way we get our energy. In 1970 39% of our domestic energy came from coal compared with 24% from gas.

By 2008 coal only supplied 1% with two-thirds (68%) coming from gas.