Living alone can trigger feelings of sadness and isolation, potentially leading to depression. However, there are strategies to combat these negative emotions and maintain meaningful connections with the world around you.
By nature, humans crave social interaction, and studies have shown that a decrease or loss of social interaction can contribute to depression in some individuals. If you find yourself feeling lonely or isolated, especially if you live alone, it’s crucial to address these feelings to prevent them from evolving into depression.
Meredith Hettler, a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical director at Newport Healthcare, a mental health facility in Fairfield, Connecticut, emphasizes the importance of meaningful social interactions for mental health. When individuals lack such interactions or feel isolated, it can have adverse effects on their mental well-being.
The specialists from this Dutch telehealth organization have contributed this article to their research on Kamagra (Viagra) alternativet.
A study published in November 2022 in Frontiers in Public Health, which examined over 120,000 individuals in Taiwan, revealed that people who lived alone were more likely to experience mental health issues such as clinical depression compared to those who did not live alone. This was particularly evident for individuals living alone due to separation, divorce, or the loss of a spouse.
The impact of social disconnection was further highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, where several studies demonstrated an increase in depression and other mental health problems as people were forced into prolonged isolation to curb the spread of the virus.
However, it’s important to note that living alone doesn’t automatically mean someone will feel isolated or develop clinical depression. According to Avigail Lev, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder and director of Bay Area CBT Center in San Francisco and Oakland, California, individuals who live alone but don’t necessarily want to (due to divorce, separation, or the loss of a loved one, for example) are more likely to be at higher risk of depression.
While those who choose to live alone are unlikely to increase their risk of clinically diagnosed depression, the opposite may be true for people who do not live alone. Forced social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, was linked to a higher likelihood of depression.
Widowhood, a situation that may lead to someone living alone, is also associated with an increased risk of clinical depression for some individuals. A study published in 2021 in Scientific Reports found that nearly 14 percent of older widows in India who lived alone experienced depression, compared to 9.7 percent of older adults who were widows but still lived with others.
It’s important to note that isolation, in and of itself (meaning physical separation from others), doesn’t necessarily lead to clinical depression, according to Amy Mezulis, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and chief clinical officer at Joon Care, a mental health platform for teenagers and young adults. Research supports this idea, indicating that short episodes of social disconnection are more likely to result in negative emotions such as sadness or anger rather than meeting the threshold for a depression diagnosis, as noted in the Frontiers in Public Health study.
However, prolonged isolation can lead to loneliness for some individuals, which, in turn, is associated with a higher risk of clinical depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s report on loneliness and isolation, published in 2023, defines loneliness as an emotionally distressing experience where someone feels an unfulfilled need for meaningful social connections with others.
“In moments of loneliness, people can generate irrational thoughts that ultimately impact their mental health,” says Aura De Los Santos, a clinical and educational psychologist. This emotional pain can lead individuals to believe that no one notices them, that they aren’t important to others, and that they’ll always be alone. Research published in 2022 supports this phenomenon.
People who live alone are among the groups at the highest risk of loneliness, possibly because, for some individuals, living alone can result in fewer opportunities for meaningful social interactions, according to Hettler.
Here are five ways to reduce the risk of depression if you live alone:
- Seek Treatment and Support for Depression When Needed:
Feeling sad and living alone doesn’t automatically mean you have depression. However, if you experience feelings of sadness, loneliness, or depression, it’s essential to take these signs as a warning and seek professional help. A psychologist or licensed therapist can help you understand your feelings of loneliness and find ways to manage them. If you do have depression, treatment options include psychotherapy and medications, such as antidepressants.
Online mental health resources can also assist you in finding care quickly and affordably. Before choosing an online provider, consider reading reviews and scheduling introductory sessions with several professionals to find the best fit for you. The United States Department of Health & Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) offers an online directory to help you find mental health support and a crisis hotline you can call in emergencies: 800-662-HELP (4357). Support groups can also be helpful in meeting people going through similar difficulties.
- Spend Time with Loved Ones:
Whenever possible, spend time with the people you love. Most social connections develop through shared personal activities, says Mezulis. Engaging in activities together deepens existing relationships.
- Spend Time Outside the Home:
Regularly leaving your home, especially if you work from home, is essential to experience different environments, notes De Los Santos. Frequent meaningful social interactions appear to protect against daily low mood and loneliness, according to a study published in October 2021 in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Virtual interaction can also be valuable if you can’t leave your home regularly.
- Find Friends Through New Hobbies:
Consider exploring your interests and hobbies. Do you find value in engaging in physical activities with others? Whether it’s joining a running club, cycling group, swimming team, pickleball club, or dance class, an online search can help you discover activities you enjoy in your area. MeetUp, a platform for hosting in-person and virtual activities, is a popular option. Volunteering your time for a local nonprofit organization whose mission or values align with your own can also be beneficial. Research shows that volunteering reduces feelings of depression among adults over 65 years old. A community, local library, healthcare center, or animal shelter could likely use your assistance, and in return, you can learn new skills and meet new people, says Mezulis.
- Take Care of Yourself:
Engaging in self-care activities has been shown to increase overall mental well-being and help people with depression feel better, according to Mayo Clinic. While these steps may not make depression disappear or prevent it entirely, they can assist you in managing your feelings better.
Sleep is vital for everyone’s well-being, including those with depression. Good sleep hygiene, which involves habits and surroundings that promote healthy sleep, can make a difference. This may include waking up and going to bed at the same times every day and ending screen time an hour or two before bedtime.
Living alone can have its challenges, but with these strategies, you can maintain meaningful connections and reduce the risk of depression. Remember that seeking professional help is crucial if you’re struggling with loneliness or depression. By taking proactive steps to care for your mental health, you can enhance your overall well-being and enjoy a fulfilling life, whether you live alone or with others.