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Loneliness Tied to Depression in Adults Older Than 50 Years

Between 11 and 18 percent of depression cases could potentially be prevented by eliminating loneliness

MONDAY, Nov. 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Loneliness may be responsible for up to 18 percent of depression cases among people older than 50 years in England, according to a study published online Nov. 9 in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Siu Long Lee, from University College London, and colleagues evaluated the association between loneliness and depressive symptoms using data from adults aged 50 years and older in England participating in seven waves of the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (2004 to 2017; 4,211 participants). Loneliness was measured using the revised University of California, Los Angeles Loneliness Scale.

The researchers found that after adjusting for other factors, a 1-point increase in loneliness score was associated with a 0.16 increase in depressive symptom severity score averaged across all follow-ups. At one year, the population-attributable fraction for depression associated with loneliness was estimated to be 18 percent and was 11 percent at the final follow-up (wave 8). With longer-term follow-up after 12 years, the effect sizes were smaller.

“Interventions that reduce loneliness could prevent or reduce depression in older adults, which presents a growing public health problem worldwide,” the authors write.

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