Older people who live alone more likely to be unhappy

Older people living alone are more likely to be depressed, lonely and unhappy and to be less satisfied with life than those living with others, according to new research.

Professor Emily Grundy and Harriet Young, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's Centre for Population Studies, analysed the impact of living alone, with a spouse, or with others on the health and happiness of older people, and examined variations within Europe and in England and Wales.

They found that those who lived on their own were most likely to be depressed, lonely and unhappy while people who lived with a relative or friend were more likely to be lonely than those living with a spouse.

Men living with relatives or friends were less likely to be happy or satisfied with life than those living with a wife while, in most parts of Europe, older women who were unmarried were happier living with friends and family than alone. The exception was women from Nordic countries, who reported similar levels of happiness regardless of whether they lived alone or with others.

The number of people aged over sixty is growing in Europe, and there has been an increase in the number of older people living alone rather than with children or relatives. Professor Grundy comments: 'In Scandinavia there are generous welfare systems. In quite a lot of countries, including the UK, older people living alone were less happy and had lower life satisfaction than those who lived with others. Further work is needed to unravel reasons for those differences'.

The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). For further information, or to speak to the authors, please contact the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Press Office on 020 7927 2073/2802.

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