Alone, not lonely: The growth of solo households (© Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images)

© Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

CORRECTION, April 29, 2013: Carl Toll is a Denver homeowner. His name was spelled incorrectly in a previous version of this article.

Living alone? You trendsetter, you. The Census says 33 million of us live solo. That's a quarter of American households, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The popularization of the solo life — in 1970, one-person households comprised just 17% of all households — is a historic change in human society, says sociologist Eric Klinenberg, the author of "Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone."

Global trend
Solo households, for reasons simple and complex, are a growing share of the population in industrialized societies, says Klinenberg in an essay for The Guardian.

Sweden has the largest proportion of solos (47%). The trend is big in other countries, too, including the United Kingdom (34%), Japan (30%) and Norway (40%).

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Personal wealth in developed countries allows singles to sustain relatively expensive one-person homes. Also, we're marrying later, divorcing more frequently and living longer.

The appeal
Not everyone lives alone by choice, of course. But many who do celebrate its appeal.

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Carl Toll, 36, a network technician in Denver, is one. "When I come home I like the peace and quiet. I don't have to think about making dinner if I don't want to. I can pick something up on the way home.

"It sounds pretty selfish but it's also very convenient. I don't have to care about the simple things. I can park in the middle of the driveway to wash the car the next day because I don’t have to think about someone else pulling out in the morning."

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Transitions in and out of solo life are common. After spending his adulthood living solo, Tull is contemplating moving in with his girlfriend.

According to Klinenberg:

  • Most solo households contain adults ages 35 to 64.
  • Young adults ages 18 to 34 are the fastest-growing solo segment. They number 5 million, quite a change from 500,000 in 1950.
  • Most solo dwellers — about 18 million — are women, compared with around 14 million men.
  • About 11 million Americans living alone are elderly.
  • The majority of solo Americans live in cities and metro areas.

Alone, not lonely
Solos often are perceived as lonely. But living alone doesn't mean your life isn't full, says Chris Moyer, 60, a computer programmer who works from home in Phoenixville, Pa.

"The living-alone part for me, I guess I don’t even notice it, to be really honest. I'm really active on Twitter," she says. "I have a smartphone. I'm like one of those teenagers who's got it in her hand all the time. But I'm not obsessed. I'm not always out there on it. I use it to learn."

Moyer arrived in Phoenixville a few years ago. She turned right away to Meetup to get acquainted. She launched a book-and-brunch group and a boomer singles gathering that have become the centers of her social life. Most of her new friends live alone, too.

She uses personal technology so fluently that even alone in her mobile home she revels in the company of friends and strangers. While watching "Downton Abbey," for example, she simultaneously follows WHYY-TV film critic Patrick Stoner's Twitter. When (spoiler alert) one of the series' main characters died recently, "Twitter just went crazy," Moyer says. "My point is, I don't ever feel alone."