Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 5–13

Feelings of loneliness among adults with mental disorder

  • Howard Meltzer
  • Paul Bebbington
  • Michael S. Dennis
  • Rachel Jenkins
  • Sally McManus
  • Traolach S. Brugha
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00127-012-0515-8

Cite this article as:
Meltzer, H., Bebbington, P., Dennis, M.S. et al. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2013) 48: 5. doi:10.1007/s00127-012-0515-8

Abstract

Purpose

Loneliness can affect people at any time and for some it can be an overwhelming feeling leading to negative thoughts and feelings. The current study, based on the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey in England, 2007, quantified the association of loneliness with a range of specific mental disorders and tested whether the relationship was influenced by formal and informal social participation and perceived social support.

Methods

Using a random probability sample design, 7,461 adults were interviewed in a cross-sectional national survey in England in 2007. Common Mental Disorders were assessed using the revised Clinical Interview Schedule; the diagnosis of psychosis was based on the administration of the Schedules of the Clinical Assessment of Neuropsychiatry, while loneliness was derived from an item in the Social Functioning Questionnaire.

Results

Feelings of loneliness were more prevalent in women (OR = 1.34, 95 % CI 1.20–1.50, P < 0.001) as well as in those who were single (OR = 2.24, 95 % CI 1.96–2.55, P < 0.001), widowed, divorced or separated (OR = 2.78, 95 % CI 2.38–3.23, P < 0.001), economically inactive (OR = 1.24, 95 % CI 1.11–1.44, P = 0.007), living in rented accommodation (OR = 1.73, 95 % CI 1.53–1.95, P < 0.001) or in debt (OR = 2.47, 95 % CI 2.07–1.50, P < 0.001). Loneliness was associated with all mental disorders, especially depression (OR = 10.85, 95 % CI 7.41–15.94, P < 0.001), phobia (OR = 11.66, 95 % CI 7.01–19.39, P < 0.001) and OCD (OR = 9.78, 95 % CI 5.68–16.86, P < 0.001). Inserting measures of formal and informal social participation and perceived social support into the logistic regression models did significantly reduce these odds ratios.

Conclusion

Increasing social support and opportunities for social interaction may be less beneficial than other strategies emphasising the importance of addressing maladaptive social cognition as an intervention for loneliness.

Keywords

Mental disorders Loneliness 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Howard Meltzer
    • 1
  • Paul Bebbington
    • 2
  • Michael S. Dennis
    • 3
  • Rachel Jenkins
    • 4
  • Sally McManus
    • 5
  • Traolach S. Brugha
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Health Sciences, College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and PsychologyUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK
  2. 2.Emeritus Professor of Social and Community Psychiatry, UCL Department of Mental Health SciencesLondonUK
  3. 3.The School of MedicineSwansea UniversitySwanseaUK
  4. 4.Institute of PsychiatryKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  5. 5.National Centre for Social ResearchLondonUK
  6. 6.Department of Health SciencesUniversity of Leicester, New Academic Unit, Leicester General HospitalLeicesterUK

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