Older individuals living alone face an increased likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms, according to a recent report titled: “Living alone and the risk of depressive symptoms: a cross-sectional and cohort analysis based on the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study.“
The report findings reveal that living alone poses an increased risk of depressive symptoms in the older Chinese population, a risk that is significantly influenced by the receipt of financial support.
The report proposes that living alone can be a simple and effective indicator for promptly identifying high-risk populations for depression among older individuals.
Living alone and depressive symptoms defined:
The report defines living alone as a distinctive housing arrangement arising from being unmarried, widowed, or other factors, potentially increasing the likelihood of social isolation, loneliness, and malnutrition, especially among the elderly.
In a recent meta-analysis comprising six cohort studies and one case-control study, individuals living alone exhibited a 1.42 times higher risk of depressive symptoms compared to those with alternative living arrangements.
While previous research indicated that certain risk factors, such as gender, socioeconomic status, social support, and urban/rural residence, might influence the impact of living alone on depressive symptoms, the outcomes have been inconsistent.
The current study primarily sought to examine the long-term connection between living alone and depressive symptoms in the general population aged 60 years and older.
In alignment, a cohort study from Japan corroborates these results, suggesting that living alone not only influences depressive symptoms but also affects participants’ overall sense of well-being.
The study from Japan also suggests that the risk of depressive symptoms is lower among urban areas, aligning with the current study’s observations to some extent.
The report offers a promising perspective: financial support could be a crucial factor in alleviating the negative effects of living alone on depressive symptoms. This aligns with the stress theory, which suggests that personal resources can act as a buffer against the impact of stress on depression.
Moreover, the study suggests that family financial support may have a more significant impact on reducing the risk of depressive symptoms associated with living alone, compared to government support, especially among the elderly.