Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 17:14 UK

Life in the UK in numbers

The UK's official statisticians have produced a revealing insight into how life is changing in modern Britain.

Here is a snapshot of some of the discoveries and what they say about our changing health, wealth and happiness.


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POPULATION

Graph showing UK population rise since 1971 and projected growth to 2031

The number of people living in the UK has risen by nearly 5m since 1971, and is expected to increase by another 10.5m by 2031.

Statisticians estimate that net migration (the difference between numbers of migrants entering the UK and Britons leaving the country) will account for nearly half of that rise - and that births to migrants will increase the proportion to around 69%.

The population continues to "age", as fertility rates have declined and people live longer.

And by 2021 the number of people aged 65 or over is expected to exceed the number of under-16s.

THE FAMILY

The proportion of people living alone in Britain has doubled since 1971, now accounting for 12% of the population.

Marriage continues to be the most common form of domestic partnership, but the number in 2005 fell by 27,000 on the previous year to 284,000 - well below the 1971 peak of 480,000.

Cohabitation, meanwhile, has become substantially more popular, the number doubling in the past 20 years.

Divorces peaked in 1993 at 180,000 before falling to 155,000 in 2005. This is still about 30,000 above the 1972 figure.

First-time mothers are becoming older - aged 30 on average in 2006 compared with 24 in 1971.

HEALTH

Bar chart showing growth in life expectancy for men and women between 1971 and 2006

Improved health has had a big impact, not only on the size of the UK's population but also on the nature of it.

Significantly higher life expectancy, aided by medical breakthroughs, has shifted the age balance.

However, the data measures only length of life - not quality.

The proportion of males between 16 and 24 reporting "good" health was five percentage points higher than in the equivalent age group for females. In all other age groups, there was little difference between male and female figures.

While circulatory diseases, such as heart disease and strokes, have remained the most common cause of death in the UK, they have declined more notably than any other life-threatening disease since the early 1970s.

WEALTH

Net wealth in the UK per household is at record levels - more than doubling between 1987 and 2006 in real terms.

But the way people spend their income has changed. Housing and transport still represent the biggest outlays, but record amounts are now being spent on personal communications, leisure and tourism, which has seen an eightfold growth since 1971.

HOUSEHOLD SPENDING

Selected comparisons

  1971 1991 2006
Alcohol, tobacco 100 92 89
Housing, water, fuel 100 139 160
Communication 100 307 956
Recreation, culture 100 279 783
Restaurants, hotels 100 167 211
Tourism abroad 100 298 763
Index: 1971=100      

In 2006 just over half of household income came from wages and salaries; 13% from investments and 19% from social benefits.

But despite the feelgood factor that comes with more wealth - 85% say they are fairly or very satisfied with their standards of living - debt remains a reality of UK life in the early 21st century.

In 2006, 42% of individuals had some form of unsecured debt; 19% owed money on a credit card, 16% on a personal loan and 9% on a car loan.

Individual insolvencies in England and Wales topped 106,000 in 2007, compared with 67,600 in 2005.

HAPPINESS

Eight in 10 children say they are happy at school.

While 63% of adults are satisfied with their future financial security, 85% are also satisfied with their standard of living.

However, this figure has remained largely constant over the comparison period.

CRIME

Graphs comparing trends in levels of crime and people's worries about crime

Measuring crime is an inexact science, but the two most widely accepted systems in England and Wales - the British Crime Survey and police recorded crime - suggest a levelling off of overall crime after a peak in the mid-1990s.

The 2006/7 BCS report suggests more than half of all offences involved gain or attempted gain, such as burglaries, theft and attempted theft.

Vehicle-related thefts have fallen by 61% since 1995.

Violent incidents represent more than one-fifth of all crimes measured, although the figure has fallen 41% since the 1995 peak.

The 2007 survey estimated that 24% of all households were victims of crime at least once in the previous year.

Yet, despite a general fall in crime levels, perception of crime remains high - 65% of adults in England and Wales believed there was now more crime.

ENVIRONMENT

Comparison of UK recycling rates in 1997 and 2007

While awareness of global warming grows, ability to do something about it remains a problem for many people.

In England in 2007, 33% of adults admitted they found it hard to change their habits to be more environmentally friendly.

In 2006, the UK generated more than 18,000 GWh of electricity from renewable sources - almost three-and-a-half times more than in 1991.

UK emissions of carbon monoxide in the air fell by 71% between 1990 and 2005.

Recycling of household waste in England rose from 7% to 31% in the decade to 2006/7.

TRANSPORT

Graph comparing rise in motoring costs against travel fares since 1987

The car remains at the core of Britons' domestic transport strategy.

The number of people licensed to drive in Britain has risen by 70% since 1976. There are now nearly 34m motorists in the country.

And more than a quarter of UK households have regular use of two cars - four times the 1971 level.

Yet perceptions of the cost of motoring are mistaken, according to the National Statistics survey. They rose by 85% in real terms in the past 20 years, while public transport and other travel costs increased by 130% in the same period.

Commuting and business are the principal purpose of drivers' car journeys, while shopping is the main reason people use buses.


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