How living alone can relate to depression?

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Page last updated: 10/11/2022

How living alone can relate to depression?

In this article it will be discussed how living alone can relate to depression. The article will also show the different meanings people give to living alone based on their life stages, and how men and women deal with it differently sometimes. 

Besides that, it will clarify how depression can affect people living alone and what strategies they can use to get better.

Is living alone related to depression?

Living alone doesn’t necessarily have to be related to being depressed. It can have different meanings for different people, and that can impact how they feel about their living arrangements. But, according to research, living alone, and the social isolation that can come from it can be a factor to increase the risk of depression. 

When comparing life stages one can see how the reason for living alone can also impact a person’s sense of emotional well-being.

Let’s see how people in different stages of life give meaning to living alone, how they handle it and the role depression plays in that:

Living alone in your twenties and early thirties 

When a person reaches their twenties they might feel the urge to live alone. It could be a way to gain independence for their family, to learn more about oneself, and to learn how to deal with new responsibilities such as the financial cost of living alone, going grocery shopping, and so on.

For some people, living alone in their twenties and thirties can feel like reaching a dream or a goal. In living alone a person may find a way to express oneself, have their own space and liberty.

But sometimes, even with all those motivations, living alone has its problems. It might feel lonely and scary at times. Being the one to deal with all the responsibilities of a home might be overwhelming. At that moment it is important to plan according to reality, plan financially, for meals, for work, and most importantly plan for things that give joy.

Living alone in your late thirties and forties

By your late thirties and forties, living alone might have other meanings than in your twenties. People might be living alone because a relationship ended or because they haven’t met someone they want to share a life with.

People around their office or friends are probably marrying and having kids, and if that was a desire of the person in their late thirties and forties, they might question if they will live alone forever or what happened that they are still living alone. 

In that stage of life, sometimes, living alone can lead to a sense of failure, of not being able to create what is expected socially of people. At that moment it is important to realize how what society wants, doesn’t have to be the same as you. 

It is important to focus on positive things going on in life, be it the work-life, family, or relationship life, and understand that people have different paths in life so focus on your own, your interests, and passions.

Middle-aged and elderly people living alone

When a person reaches their fifties and on it might happen that they Are living alone because they went through a divorce or maybe their loved ones passed away. In that stage living alone can bring a sense of sadness and of loss of identity since that couple’s identity isn’t possible anymore, so they will have to go through opening themselves up to new bonds and possibilities.

A study done by Stahl and colleagues in 2017 evaluated how 1049 people aged between 55-98, so middle-aged to older people, investigated the difference between living alone and other living arrangements.

In the research, it was shown that people that lived alone had higher levels of symptoms of depression. The first reason for that comes from the social isolation that living alone can bring.

An older person, when living alone, might not have children or they might live far and that isolation can come with the cost of less emotional and instrumental support which can lead to a greater risk for depression.

The research was done by Chou, Ho, and Chi in 2006 also showed that older men have a harder time than older women living alone. That happens because older women usually find it easier to maintain their social relationships even though they are living alone.

But on the research done by Stahl and colleagues, was shown what can lower the risk of a person in that life stage and living alone developing depression The article observed that, even if a person lives alone, if they have a good perception of their neighborhood relationship, that can be a good protective factor against more intense depression symptoms.

Although it might seem hard sometimes to live alone, it is important to remember that this can also be a way to be more in touch with oneself and learn a lot. 

With that in mind, let’s talk about strategies a person might use to make their living situation feel better:

How living alone can relate to depression?

Create a routine

It is important when living alone, to plan oneself. Having a planner where you can put your schedule, how much time of your week will be used to work, how much time will be spent doing things the person loves and with people they love, and lastly how the financial situation is can give their person a sense of control of their life.

Don’t isolate oneself

Although sometimes it might feel comfortable being in that safe, comfortable space, it is important to try and be open to social contact. Be it meeting friends, going to work in an office instead of working from home, visiting family members, and inviting people over.

It is important to try and have at least a little human contact every day. That can give a sense of community, make the person feel like it is a part of something.

If it’s possible, get a pet.

Having a pet can be a great way to not feel so alone, there is that exchange of affection with the pet and it also can give the person purpose, a reason to plan the days, sometimes a reason to go on walks, and that can be of great help.

Get comfortable in your own presence

When living alone, a person might overthink things, they might focus too much on what happened in the past and what might happen in the future. So an important thing to learn, when living alone, is how to get comfortable with the person you are right now. To enjoy their own company, do things that bring joy and a sense of fulfillment.

Try to remember what are the benefits of living alone

Living alone has a different meaning for everyone but, when it seems hard, it is important to remember what is good about the living situation at the moment. It can be the opportunity to learn more about oneself, the liberty of doing things it wouldn’t be able to do when living with other people, like listening to music on a higher volume or listening to the music they love. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ): How living alone can relate to depression?

Is it sad to live alone?

Although people that live alone have a higher chance to get depressed, that doesn’t have to mean that living alone is sad. Living alone can be a great opportunity to learn more about oneself. 

The biggest problem with living alone is social isolation so, as long as you keep your relationships going, even if you don’t live in the same place, it can be a great experience.

Is it normal to not have friends?

Not having friends is not necessarily a problem. What can be a problem is the feeling of loneliness, but loneliness is not a prerogative of people that don’t have friends, sometimes a person might be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. 

As a person decides to live without friends, it is important to keep the mind open as this might change with time, but it also can allow the person to be its priority, so they should take care of their environment, health, maybe have a pet and focus on their hobbies.

How does one become lonely?

Some people might become lonely as a result of social isolation. That can happen for multiple reasons, be it a move to a different city, loss of a partner, or divorce, maybe the person is introverted and have a harder time cultivating and seeking social connections, but other times, this isolation can be a symptom of a mental illness such as depression that usually causes people to withdraw from social contact. 

Are there advantages to being alone?

Yes, there are advantages to being alone. It can give a person a chance to connect with themselves, hear their voice and desires. Develop new ways to express themselves and discover who they are. Being alone also gives the chance to relax after the agitation of everyday life.

How do you accept being alone?

To help accept being alone it is important to create a routine full of interesting and exciting things. The person should save some time of their day to do things they enjoy, have a pet or do some volunteer work as a way to have a connection with other beings, focus on taking care of oneself mentally and physically so to feel good about oneself and when it feels right, let people in.

Those people can be family members, work colleagues, friends, or even a date sometimes, but remember to open yourself up when you feel it is okay too.

CONCLUSION

In this article, it was discussed if everyone gets depressed when living alone, and that the main point to consider, when living alone, is the social isolation that can come from it. 

The article also focused on how people from different age groups feel when living alone, the meaning they give to living alone, and the sense of success, failure, or sadness that can come from it.

It was also shown ways one can experience living alone in a more fulfilling way as to avoid depression.

If you have any questions or suggestions on this topic feel free to write in the space below.

REFERENCES

Stahl ST, Beach SR, Musa D, Schulz R. Living alone and depression: the modifying role of the perceived neighborhood environment. Aging Ment Health. 2017 Oct;21(10): 1065-1071.

Cacioppo JT, Hawkley LC. Social isolation and health, with an emphasis on underlying mechanisms. Perspective in Biology & Medicin.2003; 46:39-52.

Chou KL, Ho AH, Chi I. Living alone and depression in Chinese older adults. Aging & Mental Health. 2006;10(6):583–591

https://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/23/health/living-alone-depression/index.html