A recent study conducted by the researchers at the University College London has reported that loneliness is accountable for 18% of depression among people over 50 in England. However, the researchers could not acknowledge the association between loneliness and depressive symptoms that persists over time, or whether it is free of related social constructs and genetic confounders.
A longitudinal study was carried out using seven waves of data. The numbers were collected once every 2 years between 2004 and 2017, from adults aged 50 years and older in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Out of 9171 individuals, 4211 eligible participants had complete data on exposure, outcome, and confounders. They were included in the complete case sample. It was estimated that 18% of the population was associated with depression while 11–18% of cases of depression could be potentially prevented. Associations between loneliness and depressive symptoms remained after 12 years of follow-up, although the influence was smaller with longer follow-up.
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Siu Long Lee, Eiluned Pearce, Olesya Ajnakina, Sonia Johnson, Glyn Lewis, Farhana Mann, Alexandra Pitman, Francesca Solmi, Andrew Sommerlad, Andrew Steptoe, Urszula Tymoszuk, Gemma Lewis. The association between loneliness and depressive symptoms among adults aged 50 years and older: a 12-year population-based cohort study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/S2215-0366(20)30383-7