Mental disorders more common in people who live alone

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Living alone is positively associated with common mental disorders, regardless of age and sex, according to a large English study.

The proportion of people living alone has increased in recent years due to population ageing, decreasing marriage rates and lowering fertility. Previous studies have investigated the link between living alone and mental disorders but have generally been conducted in elderly populations and are not generalisable to younger adults.

In the study, researchers used data on 20,500 individuals aged 16-64 living in England who participated in the 1993, 2000, or 2007 National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys. Whether a person had a common mental disorder (CMD) was assessed using the Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised (CIS-R), a questionnaire focusing on neurotic symptoms during the previous week. In addition to the number of people living in a household, data was available on factors including weight and height, alcohol dependence, drug use, social support, and loneliness.

The prevalence of people living alone in 1993, 2000, and 2007 was 8.8%, 9.8%, and 10.7%. In those years, the rates of CMD was 14.1%, 16.3%, and 16.4%. In all years, all ages, and both men and women, there was a positive association between living alone and CMD (1993 odds ratio 1.69; 2000 OR 1.63; 2007 OR 1.88). In different subgroups of people, living alone increased a person’s risk for CMD by 1.39 to 2.43 times. Overall, loneliness explained 84% of the living alone-CMD association. The authors suggest that interventions which tackle loneliness might also aid the mental wellbeing of individuals living alone.

Lead research Louis Jacob at the faculty of medicine, University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, France summarises: “Living alone is positively associated with common mental disorders in the general population in England.”

Abstract
Given the high prevalence of common mental disorders (CMDs) and individuals living alone in the United Kingdom, the goal of this study using English nationally representative data was to examine the association between living alone and CMDs, and to identify potential mediating factors of this association. The data were drawn from the 1993, 2000 and 2007 National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys. CMDs were assessed using the Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised (CIS-R), a questionnaire focusing on past week neurotic symptoms. The presence of CMDs was defined as a CIS-R total score of 12 and above. Multivariable logistic regression and mediation analyses were conducted to analyze the association between living alone and CMDs, and to identify mediators in this association. The prevalence of CMDs was higher in individuals living alone than in those not living alone in all survey years. Multivariable analysis showed a positive association between living alone and CMDs in all survey years (1993: odds ratio [OR] = 1.69; 2000: OR = 1.63; and 2007: OR = 1.88). Overall, loneliness explained 84% of the living alone-CMD association. Living alone was positively associated with CMDs. Interventions addressing loneliness among individuals living alone may be particularly important for the mental wellbeing of this vulnerable population.

Authors
Louis Jacob, Josep Maria Haro, Ai Koyanagi

PLOS material
PLOS One abstract


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