How the third of Britons who live alone are 80% more likely to suffer from depressionOne in 20 Britons is on antidepressants
21:20 GMT, 19 May 2012
More of us than ever are living on our own – and it seems that the solo lifestyle could be a cause of poor mental health.
A third of Britons live alone. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that divorce rates are rising and fewer people are getting married. It is estimated that by 2020, 40 per cent of households will have only one person.
But now a study suggests that those living alone are 80 per cent more likely to be depressed than those who co-habit.
Shocking: Between 2002 and 2008, those people living alone were 1.8 times more likely to purchase antidepressants
Researchers in Finland followed 1,695 Finnish men and 1,776 women aged between 30 and 65 for seven years, of whom 14 per cent lived alone.
Use of antidepressants was monitored simultaneously through national prescription registers.
Between 2002 and 2008, those people living alone were 1.8 times more likely to purchase antidepressants. Researchers attributed this discrepancy to a number of reasons.
Lack of social support was a major risk factor in men and poverty was more likely to affect women.
The results come as no surprise to experts in the UK.
‘We know that loneliness is a major factor in depression,’ says consultant psychiatrist Dr Adrian Winbow, at Fitzroy Square Hospital in London.
Although Britons do not take as many antidepressants as the Finnish, numbers are increasing. ‘I’d suggest about one in 20 Britons is on antidepressants. A large proportion of those are likely to live on their own,’ he says.
Impact: Lack of social support was a major risk factor in men and poverty was more likely to affect women
Although it may seem surprising that those of working age are so prone to depression – presumably those with jobs have daily interaction with others – Dr Winbow points out that the current economic climate has put great pressure on employees.
‘If you are lucky enough to have a job, you are probably working longer hours and expectations will be higher,’ he says.
‘This stress is hugely alleviated if you have someone at home with whom you can laugh or complain to. Marriage brings a decreased risk for all psychiatric problems.’
Of course, if you aren’t working then this is an extra reason for low moods. So what can you do
‘Join a gym or a group in the evenings to improve your social life,’ Dr Winbow suggests. ‘Alternatively get a pet – they are proven to help with psychological problems. Flat-sharing or getting a lodger are also great ways to save money and stay social.’