Households shrink as more people living alone

Content type
Media release

July 2023

More Australians are living alone than ever before, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, based on the latest Census data.

More than one in four (26%) households are now occupied by one person – up from 24% in 2016 and 18% in 1981.

The average Australian household has shrunk from 2.6 people in 2016 to 2.5 people in 2021 – the first decrease in household size since 2000. Household sizes have been falling since 1910, when the average size was 4.5 people.

Of people living alone 55% were women and 45% were men. Half of women living alone were aged 65 years or older, compared to one-third (32%) of men living alone.

Senior researcher, Dr Lixia Qu, said the decrease in household size is due to more couples having fewer children or no children – plus an increase in people living alone.

“We’re seeing many more households with older couples as Australia’s population ages, and more young couples without children. In previous generations that wasn’t as common.”

AIFS Acting Director, Liz Neville, said the findings come at time when people are being encouraged to “live with others” and increase household sizes.

“We know that we have a major housing challenge in this country and people are being urged to share homes with family and friends, to decrease the demand and lower house prices,” Ms Neville said.

“Meanwhile, this data shows that more people than ever are living alone – indicating that strategies must be responsive to latest trends in household size.”

The report also showed that Australia’s households have become more diverse over time, with increasing proportions of First Nations and immigrant households.

More than one third of Australian households are now immigrant households. This number climbed from 28% of all households in 1981 to 35% in 2021.

Dr Qu said both Asian and African countries have become a key source of immigrants in recent years.

“While we’re seeing drops in households with people born in the UK and Ireland, the proportion of Australian households with people from Asian and African backgrounds is on the rise,” Dr Qu said.

The proportion of households with reference persons from Asian countries increased from less than 2% of Australian households in 1981 to 13% in 2021.

See the full report: Facts and figures – Population, households and families

AIFS conducts original research to increase understanding of Australian families and the issues that affect them.

News stories

Media contact     
Kate O'Connor      
Phone: 0499 860 257  
Email: kate.o'[email protected]