The risk of depression for people who live alone is almost 80 percent higher than for people who live with family or roommates.
According to new research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Public Health, for women, a third of this risk was attributable to sociodemographic factors, such as lack of education and low income.
For men, the biggest contributing factors included poor job climate, lack of support at the workplace or in their private lives, and heavy drinking.
While it is known that living alone can increase the risk of mental health problems for the elderly and for single parents, little is known about the effects of isolation on working-age people, say researchers in Finland.
They followed 3,500 working-aged men and women for seven years and compared their living arrangements with psychosocial, sociodemographic and health risk factors, including smoking, heavy drinking and low physical activity to antidepressant use. Information on antidepressant medication was taken from the country’s National Prescription Register.
“Our study shows that people living alone have an increased risk of developing depression,” said psychologist Dr. Laura Pulkki-Råback, 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.”
“This kind of study usually underestimates risk because the people who are at the most risk tend to be the people who are least likely to complete the followup,” she continued. “We also were not able to judge how common untreated depression was.”
While the study identifies some of the factors that increase the risk of depression for people who live alone, over half the increase in risk is still unexplained, the researchers say, suggesting that this may be due to feelings of alienation from society, lack of trust or difficulties arising from critical life events.
Source: BioMed Central