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People Living Alone More Likely to Be Depressed: Research

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Changes in the family structure and working world have increased the number of one-person households. According to population reports in the UK and USA, every third person in these countries lives alone. For this reason, a team of scientists lead by Dr Laura Pulkki-Råback, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, have studied whether this fact increases the risk of suffering depression. Their conclusions are that people living alone are 80% more likely to buy antidepressants than those living with other people.

They chose a sample of over 3,500 Finnish people, 1,695 men and 1,776 women, with an average age of 44.6 years. They checked their personal environment, and followed-up their use of antidepressant medication between 2000 and 2008. The results suggest ‘that the explanatory factors may be gender specific, with a lack of social support playing a greater role in men and socioeconomic disadvantages in women,’ they write in the study.

This paper shows a growing problem in developed countries; its authors even recognize that they would need more information to understand the extent of the matter. ‘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 follow up,’ says Dr Pulkki- Råback. ‘We were also not able to judge how common untreated depression was.’

Source: BBC News,

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Laura Pulkki-Raback, Mika Kivimaki, Kirsi Ahola, Kaisla Joutsenniemi, Marko Elovainio, Helena Rossi, Sampsa Puttonen, Seppo Koskinen, Erkki Isometsa, Jouko Lonnqvist, & Marianna Virtanen (2012). Living alone and antidepressant medication use: a prospective study in a working-age population BMC Public Health : 10.1186/1471-2458-12-236

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  • Jake Harris

    Well, this makes since to me because one of the symptoms of depression is loneliness, and in this case, the people studied actually are alone. I think the people who want to live alone aren’t the ones who becomes depressed because they find comfort in their isolation and little to no interruptions, but the people who would like to live with someone and aren’t because they don’t know anybody are the ones who become depressed because they are craving a relationship.

    • I agree there is a big difference between choosing to live alone and to somehow be forced to live alone. Also it’s different to be alone in a city because of relocation than to be living on your own with a great network of friends, family, etc. living within a short distance. The study raises many questions that don’t have an easy answer, and definitely the solution is not to stop living alone, at least in many cases. Of course, it depends on the person and circumstances.