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Living Alone: More Common and More Unhealthy?

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“It is not good that man should be alone.” And now a new study has suggested that living alone is correlated with having a mental disorder. Louis Jacob from the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines has concluded that living alone “is positively associated with common mental disorders, regardless of age or sex.” The study compared survey data (National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys) from 20,500 individuals aged 16-64 living in England collected in the years 1993, 2000 and 2007 and found the prevalence of common mental disorders was higher in individuals living alone than in those living with others. The difference between this and previous studies is that the latter, although investigating the link between living alone and mental disorders, have generally been confined to elderly populations. These were therefore of less applicability to younger adults. But this study broadened the age bracket beyond those elderly living alone.

And the prevalence of those living alone before their twilight years has increased in recent decades thanks to decreasing marriage rates and lowering fertility. In the three years in which the study used survey data (1993, 2000 and 2007) the prevalence of those living alone in England was 8.8 percent, 9.8 percent and 10.7 percent.

(These figures are comparable to other developed countries. In New Zealand, the number of people living alone has grown from 204,000 in 1986 (9 percent of the population) to 355,000 in 2013 (12 percent of the population). In the future this figure is projected to increase to around half a million in 2023 and comprise 13 percent of the population. In the USA just over 10 percent of the population live alone: there were 35.7 million single person households in 2018.)

In those same years, the rates of common mental disorder (CMD) were 14.1 percent, 16.3 percent and 16.4 percent. Across the three sample years, for all ages and for both sexes there was a positive association between living alone and CMD. Now this of course does not mean that you are more likely to get a mental disorder due to living alone. People with CMD may be more likely to live alone.  But it does not seem to me surprising that if social animals such as humans live alone, this would have an adverse effect on their mental health.


This article has been republished with the permission of Mercatornet. 

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Marcus Roberts

Marcus Roberts

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to Auckland University and did his LLM while tutoring at the new law school at the Auckland University of Technology. He has just started a new job teaching contract law at Auckland University. Aside from law, his passions include running and reading (particularly philosophy, apologetics and history) and supporting the New Zealand cricket team (which counts as penance for a vast multitude of sins).

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I have to defend the introverts of the world!. (I am a Meyers-Briggs INFJ, for those in the know.) We are not in any way mentally ill, although the extroverts of the world often feel that we need to be ‘fixed’! Instead of being energized by large groups of people, we become exhausted. We are energized being alone with our own thoughts or having deep conversations with one or two others. Certainly not all of us live alone, but those of us who do, actually stay mentally healthy that way.