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Those Living Alone Have Highest Risk of Depression

Update Date: Mar 23, 2012 10:48 PM EDT

While an increasing proportion of the population lives in one-person households today, a new study showed that those living alone have 80% higher risk of depression compared to people living in other social or family groups.

Researchers in Finland followed 3500 working-aged men and women from 2000 to 2008 and compared their living arrangements(living alone vs. not) with psychosocial factors(social support, work climate, hostility), sociodemographic factors(occupational grade, education, income, unemployment, urbanicity, rental living, housing conditions), and health behaviors(smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, obesity), to antidepressant use. Antidepressant medication use was followed up through linkage to national prescription registers.

The study showed that the risk of depression, measured by antidepressant medication use, is 80% higher for those living alone compared to people living in other social or family groups.

The results of research also showed in women the greatest attenuation was related to sociodemographic factors such as lack of education and low income and in men to psychosocial factors including poor job climate, lack of support at the work place or in their private lives and health behaviors such as heavy drinking.

Dr. Laura Pulkki-Råback, who conducted the research at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, said, "Our study shows that people living alone have an increased risk of developing depression. 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."

She added, "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. We also were not able to judge how common untreated depression was."

The research is published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Public Health.

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