Volume 32 - Article 46 | Pages 1267–1298  

Living alone in Japan: Relationships with happiness and health

By James Raymo

This article is part of the Special Collection 15 "Living Alone: One-person households in Asia"


Background: One-person households are the most common type of household in Japan, but relatively little is known about the causes and potential consequences of the rise in solo living in young adulthood.

Objective: I address two questions: What accounts for the rise in one-person households in young adulthood? How is solo living in young adulthood related to well-being?

Methods: I use census data to evaluate how much of the growth in one-person households at ages 20−39 between 1985 and 2010 is explained by change in marital behavior and how much is explained by other factors. I then use data from the 2000−2010 rounds of the Japanese General Social Survey to examine whether and why men and women living alone differ from those living with others in terms of happiness and self-rated health.

Results: Results of the first set of analyses indicate that changes in marital behavior explain all of the increase in one-person households for men and three-fourths of the increase for women. Results of the second set of analyses indicate that those living alone are significantly less happy than those living with others, whereas the two groups do not differ with respect to self-rated health. The observed differences in happiness are not explained by differences in subjective economic well-being or social integration.

Conclusions: The relatively small magnitude of estimated differences in happiness and health provides little evidence to suggest that the projected rise in one-person households is likely to play a significant role in contributing to lower levels of well-being among young adults in Japan.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

An alternative version of the second demographic transition? Changing pathways to first marriage in Japan
Volume 49 - Article 16

Marriage intentions, desires, and pathways to later and less marriage in Japan
Volume 44 - Article 3

Educational differences in early childbearing: A cross-national comparative study
Volume 33 - Article 3

Educational Differences in Divorce in Japan
Volume 28 - Article 6

Marital Dissolution in Japan: Recent Trends and Patterns
Volume 11 - Article 14

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