Mental disorders are more common in people who live alone, regardless of their age and sex, according to a study. Researchers from the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in France noted that the number 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. The latest study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, used data on 20,500 individuals aged 16-64 living in England who participated in the 1993, 2000, or 2007 National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys.
"Living alone is positively associated with common mental disorders in the general population in England," Louis Jacob from University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines said in a statement.
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 per cent, 9.8 per cent, and 10.7 per cent.
In those years, the rates of CMD was 14.1 per cent, 16.3 per cent, and 16.4 per cent. In all years, all ages, and both men and women, there was a positive association between living alone and CMD, researchers said.
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 per cent of the living alone-CMD association, they said. The researchers suggest that interventions which tackle loneliness might also aid the mental wellbeing of individuals living alone.
Globally, the lifetime prevalence of CMDs is around 30 per cent. CMDs have a major impact on quality of life, physical illness and mortality. In the past decades, there has been a growing interest in the association between living alone and CMDs, researchers said.
This is partly driven by the fact that in many settings, the proportion of individuals living alone is increasing due to factors such as population ageing, lowering fertility, decreasing marriage rates, and increasing divorce rates, they said.