National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Household size is decreasing

Household size is decreasing

Thursday, 23 Jun 2022
demography news release image

The average household size in Scotland is now 2.12 people, down from 2.27 in 2001, according to figures published today by National Records of Scotland (NRS). City of Edinburgh and Glasgow City are the main exceptions to this trend. From 2008 to 2021, the average household size in these two council areas increased by just over 4%.

Households consisting of only one person are the most common type in Scotland.

The latest figures also show that the total number of households in Scotland reached 2.53 million in 2021. This was an increase of 334,300 (15%) since 2001.

The number of households has increased in every council area over the last 20 years. Orkney Islands (29%), East Lothian (27%) and Aberdeenshire (25%) had the biggest relative increases.

The figures show there were 2.67 million dwellings in Scotland in 2021. 88,300 (3%) of these were empty. These included new homes yet to be occupied and dwellings awaiting repair or demolition.

A total of 24,000 (1%) dwellings were second homes.  Remote rural areas generally have higher proportions of empty and second homes than urban areas.

Sandy Taylor, Head of Household Statistics said:

“These latest statistics show a continuation of the trends in the number and type of households that we have seen over the last twenty years.

“The growth in the number of households is partly due to an increase in the population but it is also because people are increasingly living alone or with fewer other people.”

The publication Households and Dwellings in Scotland, 2021 is available on the NRS website.


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

‘Estimates of Households and Dwellings in Scotland 2021’

The household and dwelling statistics are mainly used for informing decisions about housing need and service provision.

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.

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:

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

Media enquiries should be directed to: 
Donna Green – 07775-027-380
NRS Communications
Email: [email protected]

Further information about the statistics is available from:
NRS Customer Services
Email: [email protected]