An English study released in The Lancet Psychiatry found that as many as 18 percent of cases of depression among older adults are caused by loneliness.
The study, conducted by the University College London, implicated data of over 4,000 elderly participants from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA).
In the data, the participants were asked questions over a span of more than a decade of their experiences with social isolation, social engagement, social support, along with any depressive symptoms.
What the research team at UCL determined was that the depressive symptoms exhibited by the elderly participants were the result of loneliness. They concluded that 18 percent of depression cases with this age group may be directly caused by loneliness.
“We did a longitudinal study using seven waves of data that were collected once every 2 years between 2004 and 2017, from adults aged 50 years and older in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing,” researchers explained in the publication.
“Irrespective of other social experiences, higher loneliness scores at baseline were associated with higher depression symptom severity scores during 12 years of follow-up among adults aged 50 years and older,” they concluded in their findings.
Given the results, researchers suggest that interventions that aim at reducing loneliness could in fact help prevent the onset of depression among older adults.
“Clinicians should be aware of loneliness as a potential risk factor for depression, assess for signs of loneliness in older adults, and consider strategies to address this loneliness,” researchers also determined.
The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and a consortium affiliated with the National Institute for Health Research.