Are people in England depressed?

Study: Loneliness is a common cause of depression in old age

NewsMedical Study: Loneliness is a common cause of depression in old age

medicine

Friday 20th November 2020

/ mrmohock, stock.adobe.com

London - People over 50 who often felt lonely (although not necessarily so) fell ill in a long-term study in Lancet Psychiatry (2020; DOI: 10.1016 / S2215-0366 (20) 30383-7) consequently more often from depression. Loneliness could account for 11 to 18% of all depression in old age in England.

The psychological consequences of loneliness are easily overlooked. Lonely people rarely see a doctor or psychiatrist because they feel lonely. Yet loneliness is a painful emotional state.

It is less about people not having social relationships. For Gemma Lewis from University College London, it is more the discrepancy between the desire for a meaningful social relationship and the actual state of affairs. People can be lonely afterwards despite the company of other people. The phenomenon is by no means rare. In a UK survey, 1/3 of people over 50 said they felt lonely.

Lewis worked with other researchers to study the effects of loneliness on mental health. The basis was the results of the “English Longitudinal Study of Aging” (ELSA), which has accompanied a group of over 50-year-olds since 2002. The participants are examined every 2 years.

Since the second appointment, the participants have also been filling out a questionnaire from the University of California at Los Angeles on loneliness ("R-UCLA"). Lewis related the answers to later results in the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), a screening test for depressive disorders. In total, the researchers were able to evaluate the data on 4,211 participants who were observed over a period of 12 years.

The result was a clear association: Every increase of one point on the loneliness scale doubled the risk of developing depression in the following years. This also applied to those who did not have any depressive disorders at the start of the study. According to Lewis, this rules out the fact that depression is responsible for loneliness and not the other way around.

According to the researcher's calculations, the feeling of loneliness could be responsible for 11 to 18% of all depressive disorders in people over 50. The connection is plausible for Lewis. There are indications that loneliness can lead to cognitive dysfunction. Lonely people tend to be more alert to threatening social stimuli and to prejudice, writes the psychiatrist.

Those who are lonely would increasingly evaluate social interactions as negative, which could increase loneliness. According to Lewis, associating with other people gives people positive affirmations that increase their self-esteem. Without these contacts, the risk increases that those affected slip into a spiral that ultimately leads to depression.

The psychiatrist appeals to the communities to create more contact opportunities for the older population. Reducing loneliness could reduce the incidence of depression. © rme / aerzteblatt.de

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