StatsCAN Plus

How do we measure love? Let me count the ways!

February 13, 2023, 11:00 a.m. (EST)

We don’t track love at Statistics Canada, but we do keep tabs on the measurable manifestations of love such as marriage and cohabitation. We also take note of the number of divorces as well as the increasing share of Canadians who live solo or with roommates.

So, whether you are a devotee, victim or skeptic of love, we have got you covered on this day when we celebrate all things love… or not.

The yearning to form a union or partnership remains undimmed compared with a century earlier

Canadian adults are as equally likely today to be in some form of union or partnership with another adult as they were a century ago. When we asked in 2021, 57% of Canadian adults told use they were living with a spouse or partner compared with 58% when we asked way back in 1921.

How Canadians couple up today

Marriage remains the predominant type of union. In 2021, more than three-quarters (77%) of couples were married, with the remaining 23% living common law.

Canada has the highest share of couples living common law among the G7. The prevalence of common-law unions in Nunavut (52%), Quebec (43%) and the Northwest Territories (36%) is higher than in Sweden, one of the countries with the highest rate of common-law unions at the national level (with one-third of couples living common law).

Among adults who were not living with a spouse or partner in 2021, approximately one in six (17%) lived apart from their spouse or partner. This share rose to almost one in three for those aged 20 to 34 (29%).

Most of Canada's 8.6 million couples were different-gender couples (98.5%) in 2021, meaning they included one woman and one man who were both cisgender.

Same-gender couples, that is, a couple in which there were either two women or two men and both members were cisgender, represented 1.1% of all couples.

Transgender or non-binary couples, in which at least one person was transgender or non-binary, represented about 1 in every 250 couples (0.4%).

Married couples are more likely to stick together today compared with 30 years earlier

There are many inspirational quotes out there proclaiming that love is forever. Alas, the data suggest this is not always the case.

Nevertheless, the number of divorces has been declining for over three decades, despite the growth in the population at risk of divorce, that is, married people.

The divorce rate—which corresponds to the number of people who divorce per 1,000 married people—decreased from 12.7 per 1,000 in 1991 to 7.5 per 1,000 in 2019, just prior to the pandemic. 

Two key societal changes have contributed to the general decrease in the divorce rate over the last three decades: the aging of the married population and a lowered tendency to divorce among younger married adults in particular.

The married population is getting older because of general population aging, but also because younger generations of Canadians are choosing common-law unions more often and, if they do marry, they do so at an older age than the earlier generations. Since age-specific divorce rates are generally lower among older adults than among younger adults, the aging of the married population has led to the decline in the divorce rate.

Divorce rate falls to lowest level since 1973 during the first year of the pandemic

There were 42,933 divorces granted in Canada in 2020 for a rate of 5.6 per 1,000. This was down by one-quarter (25%) from a year earlier and the largest decline since the Divorce Act came into force in 1968.

Difficulties accessing court services during the pandemic likely contributed to this decrease.

The number of divorces in 2020 was the lowest since 1973 and was less than half that recorded in 1987.

From 2016 to 2020, the divorce rate was highest in Yukon (13 people divorced per 1,000 married people) and Alberta (10 per 1,000 married people), while it was lowest in Nunavut (2 per 1,000 married people) and Newfoundland and Labrador (6 per 1,000 married people).

More Canadians live alone

Living alone by no means implies a lack of loving relationships, but by choice or by fate, over one in seven Canadians (4.4 million people) lived alone in 2021, up from 1.7 million in 1981—the highest share on record.

Despite the increase in solo living, the prevalence of one-person households is relatively low in Canada from an international perspective, representing about 3 in 10 households (29.3%) in 2021. Among G7 countries, only the United States had a slightly smaller share of one-person households (28.5% in 2021).

Solo living is on the rise in middle adulthood in Canada, with the share of people aged 35 to 44 who live alone doubling from 1981 (5%) to 2021 (10%).

In contrast, the share of women aged 65 and older living alone has decreased over time, owing to gradual convergence in the life expectancies of men and women. This change means that older adults—particularly women—can live as part of a couple for longer.

Roomies are catching on

Having roommates allows you to gain valuable experience in the field of cohabitation. Households composed of roommates—that is, two or more people living together but none being part of a census family—are the fastest-growing household type. From 2001 to 2021, the number of roommate households increased by 54%.

Despite the strong growth of households composed of roommates, they still represented a small share of all of Canada's households in 2021 (4%).

Contact information

For more information, contact the Statistical Information Service (toll-free 1-800-263-1136514-283-8300; or Media Relations (