A recent study in Finland found that people who live alone tend to take more prescriptions for antidepressants than those who live with others. This study, linking living alone with depression, has raised multiple questions that may spur more research on this new link.
Elderly citizens often live alone and may suffer from depression. But this study analyzed another demographic, that of the younger crowd. Their findings showed that even the younger crowd that lives alone has a high rate of using antidepressants.
Researchers interviewed nearly 3,500 individuals, aged 30 to 65. Laura Pulkki-Raback, Ph.D., a lecturer at the University of Helsinki’s Institute of Behavioral Sciences, led the study that was published in the journal BMC Public Health.
Seventeen percent of men and women interviewed had taken at least one antidepressant medication during the study. But the odds of taking antidepressants were up 81 percent higher in those individuals who lived alone.
Which Came First?
The study doesn’t suggest that living alone causes depression. Nor does it suggest that those who are depressed choose to live alone. It does however show a definite link between depression and living alone.
Information from the study reveals that those who live alone tend to have less social interaction with others which leads them to feel more isolated and lonely. Those who live alone also showed signs of being more cynical than those who lived with others. A cynical attitude spurs negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness that could lead to depression. However, cynicism could have been the very reason they live alone, because others find it difficult to live with them.
Dr. John Newcomer, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, agrees with Dr. Pulkki-Raback that it is difficult to determine whether depression stems from living alone or those who are depressed choose to live alone. However, he notes that depression causes his patients to become more isolated. They lose the energy to form new relationships and have difficulty fostering the old ones. They are sometimes left immobile and can’t leave their own room even when they want to see friends.
Some Risk Factors For Women And Men Living Alone
Part of the research revealed some specific factors that may have contributed to the depression of those who were living alone.
Greater risk of depression for women included the following:
- Low income
- Poor housing conditions
- Fewer years of education
Greater risk of depression for men included the following:
- Work-related stress
- Lack of social support
Paving The Way For More Research
Many questions still remain about the link between depression and living alone. The study couldn’t differentiate between those who chose to live alone and those who preferred to live with others. A little more than 40 percent of those in the study who lived alone stated that they were widowed or divorced, but other reasons may have applied to other participants.
Also, those who take antidepressants do not always take them for depression. Antidepressant medications are used for other medical issues such as insomnia, migraines, and chronic pain. This study paves the way for future research on the cause and effect between depression and living alone and offers hope for appropriate treatment for those who suffer from depression.