News / Toronto

Torontonians increasingly live alone, census shows

It's part of a decades-long trend.

A young man examines the city over Riverdale Park.

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A young man examines the city over Riverdale Park.

Toronto increasingly lives on its own, according to the latest census data.

There are more one-person households than ever before, and the amount in the 2016 census grew by 8.7 per cent over the previous census taken five years earlier.

“It’s part of an ongoing trend for decades,” said Michael Wright of Toronto’s City Planning division.

“A lot of these one-person households are in the downtown core and city centres,” he said, areas of the city that feature much of the growth in highrise apartments.

Households with two people grew by 8.3 per cent, and dwellings with four or more people only grew by 1.5 per cent — significantly lower than the 4.5 per cent population growth for the city as a whole.

Single- and two-person dwellings accounted for almost two-thirds of the city’s population growth since the last census.

Wright said people who live by themselves aren’t necessarily lonely and that they can be well-connected with the city around them. He pointed to efforts the city has made to improve parks, public spaces and other forms of public engagement.

It’s not a frivolous concern. Psychologists recognize loneliness as a health issue, and city planners are increasingly attuned to the needs that come with it.

One 2012 poll showed that 60 per cent of 18–34-year-old Vancouverites often feel isolated. The city put together a comprehensive plan to get people more engaged, including more block parties, the first ever Doors Open Vancouver and a mobile city hall outreach unit.

Others have embraced this loneliness. In Olivia Laing’s 2016 book The Lonely City, she writes that, “Cities can be lonely places, and in admitting this we see that loneliness doesn’t necessarily require physical solitude, but rather an absence or paucity of connection.”

For Laing, this isolation doesn’t have to be negative. “Loneliness is a very special place,” she writes, quoting former Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. She argues that loneliness has value too, and can help build a unique relationship between the individual and the city around them.

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