A new study has found that living alone is positively associated with common mental disorders, regardless of age and sex.
The proportion of people living alone has increased in recent years due to population aging, decreasing marriage rates, and lowering fertility. Previous studies have investigated the link between living alone and mental disorders, but have generally been conducted only in elderly populations, noted Dr. Louis Jacob from the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in France, who led the research.
In the new study, researchers used data on 20,500 individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 living in England who participated in the 1993, 2000, or 2007 National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys.
Whether a person had a common mental disorder (CMD) was assessed using the Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised (CIS-R), a questionnaire focusing on neurotic symptoms during the previous week.
In addition to the number of people living in a household, data was available on factors including weight and height, alcohol dependence, drug use, social support, and loneliness, the researchers noted.
The prevalence of people living alone in 1993, 2000, and 2007 was 8.8 percent, 9.8 percent, and 10.7 percent. In those years, the rates of CMD was 14.1 percent, 16.3 percent and 16.4 percent.
In all years, for all ages, and for both men and women, there was a positive association between living alone and CMD. In 1993 the odds ratio was 1.69; in 2000 it was 1.63; and in 2007 it was 1.88.
In different subgroups of people, living alone increased a person’s risk for CMD by 1.39 to 2.43 times, according to the study’s findings.
Overall, loneliness explained 84 percent of the association between living alone and CMD, the researchers reported.
They suggest that interventions that tackle loneliness might also aid the mental wellbeing of individuals living alone.
The study was published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.