Household numbers continue to rise

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland.

The number of households in Scotland has continued to increase to 2.45 million in 2016, according to figures published today by National Records of Scotland (NRS) in 'Estimates of Households and Dwellings in Scotland, 2016'. Households are single people or groups of people living together.

Over the last ten years the number of households in Scotland has grown by around 157,000 (seven per cent). The number of households has increased in every council area over the last ten years, with the greatest relative increases occurring in Orkney Islands and Highland. The growth in households is partly due to the rising population, but also because people are increasingly living alone, or with fewer other people. Households consisting of only one person are now the most common type in Scotland. Over a third of households are single person households, and nearly 900,000 people are living alone. (Scottish Household Survey 2015, figure below). 

Number of one person, two person and three or more person households, 2001-2015
Number of one person, two person and three or more person households, 2001-2015


Tim Ellis, the Chief Executive of National Records of Scotland, said:

“The average household in Scotland has been getting smaller for several decades. This is partly due to changes in the way we live, and partly because the number of older people in the population has been rising. Older people are more likely to live alone, so as the number of older people has increased, the average size of households has decreased. However, the fall in household sizes appears to have slowed since the economic downturn in 2007. This may be due to factors such as decreased house building and more young adults living with their parents instead of forming their own households.”

According to the estimates published today, there were 2.58 million dwellings in Scotland in 2016. Three per cent (79,100 dwellings) were empty, and a further one per cent (26,100 dwellings) were second homes. Empty and second homes are concentrated in different parts of the country. For example, remote rural areas have a higher percentage of empty and second homes than urban areas.


Notes To Editors

  1. These figures are based on a National Statistics publication released today by National Records of Scotland (NRS):                       

    ‘Estimates of Households and Dwellings in Scotland, 2016’

  2. These statistics are mainly used for informing decisions about housing need and service provision.

  3. A ‘dwelling’ refers to the accommodation itself, for example, a house or a flat. A ‘household’ refers to the people living together in that dwelling. The number of households will be smaller than the number of dwellings, as some dwellings are vacant or second homes.

  4. In 2013, the Scottish Government introduced legislation which allows councils to increase the Council Tax charges on certain long-term empty properties. It also made slight changes to the definitions of such properties and second homes. The aim of the legislation is to encourage empty home owners to bring their properties back into use. More information on this, and other empty homes initiatives, can be found on the Scottish Government website at:

  5. Further statistics produced by NRS, and information about our statistics, can be accessed at:



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