Living Alone Can Lead To Depression
March 23, 2012

Living Alone Can Lead To Depression

Over the past two decades, the number of people living on their own in the US and UK has doubled. Based on research published in BioMed Central´s journal BMC Public Health, people who live alone are almost 80% more likely to be depressed compared to those who live with others.

The research analyzed the number of people who are currently taking antidepressants to arrive at their conclusion.

The reasons for living alone were different between men and women. A third of the risk of living alone for women was attributed to sociodemographic factors, such as lack of education and low income. Men, on the other hand, were more at risk for factors such as poor job climate and heavy drinking.

While previous research suggests the elderly and single parents face mental health risks when living alone, not much research has been done concerning the effects of living alone on young, work-a-day individuals.

A research team from Finland set out to study this working-age group of people and determine the effects of living alone.

To conduct their research, the team followed 3,500 working-age men and women for seven years. The team compared their living arrangements with several risk factors, such as psychosocial, sociodemographic, and health risks, like smoking and heavy drinking. The team than analyzed this data against data from those who take antidepressants. Antidepressant information came from the National Prescription Register.

“Our study shows that people living alone have an increased risk of developing depression,” said Dr. Laura Pilkki-RÃ¥back, who conducted the research at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. “Overall there was no difference in the increased risk of depression by living alone for either men or women. Poor housing conditions (especially for women) and a lack of social support (particularly for men) were the main contributory factors to this increased risk.”

Researchers suggest one of the main reasons causing these younger people to move on their own is an issue of “social capital”. While social capital has no formal and agreed-upon definition, suggests that social capital is “The central idea is that 'social networks are a valuable asset´. “A sense of belonging and the concrete experience of social networks (and the relationships of trust and tolerance that can be involved) can, it is argued, bring great benefits to people.”

Without this social capital, the younger, working generation is more likely to strike out on their own. Living without this kind of social network and structure is proven to have adverse effects on mental health.

While the researchers were able to prove that living alone was a common factor in those who began to take antidepressants, they were not able to confirm if those who were already taking antidepressants were more likely to move out on their own. Furthermore, as people only seek professional care if their depression symptoms are severe enough, those experiencing mild depression who have not sought out professional care were not able to be analyzed. As it stands, one thing is certain: It is best to live with someone if you can rather than live alone.