Loneliness could be a nasty and frustrating experience, which happens to everyone, at one point or the other in life, especially as one gets older. This explains the rationale behind the new study conducted by scientists from the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in France, which validated the link between living alone and common mental disorders (CMDs).
Some common psychological disorders include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviours.
According to the findings published in journal Anm, which affirmed that an estimated 20–30 percent of the Nigerian population are suffering from common mental disorders, indicated that this is a very significant number, considering Nigeria has an estimated population of over 200 million.
Due to the widespread influence of CMDs, scientists are keen to understand the full range of risk factors that feed into mental health. Also in recent years, researchers have investigated whether living alone might be one such risk factor.
The number of people living alone is steadily growing due to a number of reasons, including the aging population, increased divorce rates, refusal to marry by men and women of marriageable age.
The researchers also looked at the relationship between CMDs and living alone, but most have focused on older adults, so their findings may not apply to other age groups.
To comprehend this analogy, the authors of the new study looked for links between living alone and CMDs in general, and they investigated which factors seemed to be influencing the relationship.
For the research, the scientists analyzed data from 20,503 adults, ages 16–74, living in England. The data came from three National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys that experts conducted in 1993, 2000, and 2007.
Participants completed clinical Interview schedule revised questionnaires, which assessed whether they had experienced neurotic symptoms during the previous week.
The surveys also collated data on a range of variables, including height and weight, level of education, employment status, alcohol and drug use, social support, and feelings of loneliness.
As expected, the authors found that the number of people living alone has steadily grown. In 1993, 8.8% lived alone. This is compared with 9.8% in 2000 and 10.7% in 2007.
Their analysis also showed that across all age groups and sexes, there was a significant association between living alone and having a CMD. The size of this relationship was fairly similar across the three surveys.
When the scientists delved deeper into the relationship between CMDs and living alone, they found that loneliness explained 84% of the association.
Earlier studies had shown that loneliness is linked with depression and anxiety. Others still had investigated whether loneliness might increase mortality risk.
Not everyone who lives alone is lonely. However, for those who are, interventions to tackle loneliness are available. These may include talking therapies, and social care provisions .
The next and most challenging step is to find ways to ensure that people in need get access to these tools.
The researchers acknowledge certain limitations to the study. For instance, this was a cross-sectional study, meaning that it looked at a snapshot of people at one point in time. The authors call for longitudinal studies to ascertain how this relationship might play out over time.
According to Merle Yost, a licensed marriage and family therapist, it’s important to actually see your friends face-to-face, rather than just text them or connect through social media. A key to combating loneliness is to find two or three places to visit, because loneliness can cause mental disorderliness.