Research has linked common mental disorders to loneliness felt by individuals in solo living arrangements. Lacking social relationships caused by living alone may trigger anxiety, mood disorders, and substance abuse.
Interventions are important to address the mental well-being of people living by themselves.
Loneliness Is The Link
There are previous studies that investigated mental health and living alone but only focused on the elderly population. The new analysis of researchers from the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France used data from the general adult population aged 16 to 64 living in England. The authors studied all groups and sexes that developed various mental health conditions due to loneliness.
Information from people who answered the 1993, 2000, or 2007 National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys was the main basis of the study, which used the Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised questionnaire to assess common mental disorders.
The study also investigated mediators that may contribute to increased risk such as obesity, smoking status, alcohol dependence, drug use, loneliness, and social support.
As the incidence of adults living alone increased, the rate of common mental disorders also accelerated correspondingly. The study findings showed that loneliness is the strongest significant contributor to the living alone-mental disorder association with a rate of 84 percent.
Overall, regardless of age, sex, and subgroup, people living alone have 1.39 to 2.43 times higher risk of developing common mental disorders as compared to cohabiting individuals.
Mental Health Risks Of Living Alone
Similar studies have also established a link between solo living and mental health. In Finland, persons living alone or living with other than a partner were twice as likely to have anxiety or depressive disorders. In a rural part of Japan, living alone is an important factor in depression among the elderly. The same in Singapore wherein living alone predicted lower psychological well-being, and loneliness reportedly worsened the psychological effects of living alone.
"Based on the findings of the present study, health professionals should be aware that living alone is a risk factor for CMDs, and that this association is largely mediated by loneliness," said Louis Jacob, lead author of the study.
Seek Social Support
The researchers believe that reducing levels of loneliness in people living alone is important. An expert suggested that individuals who are not in a cohabiting relationship, whether living with a partner or spouse, must actively seek means of developing social support.
"Look for meet-up groups related to something you enjoy. This will help with meeting other people with similar interests and provide a natural means of developing social support. Fill your life with fun and exciting things," said Jessy Warner-Cohen, Ph.D., MPH, a health psychologist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center who was not involved in the study.
Mental health conditions associated with living alone may be treated through professional assistance offered by healthcare services.
The study findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.