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Postcards from Scotland

Living arrangements: happiness, health and old age

A recent study, based on findings from 19 European countries, found that in 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. There were some differences between European countries. Older people in Scandinavia were happier than in other regions of Europe.

This study looked at four types of living arrangements among older people: living with a spouse, living alone, living with a spouse and other people, and living with people other than a spouse.

'The key findings are'

 1/ In most regions of Europe, older women who were unmarried were in general happier living with friends and family than alone. But this did not apply to women in Nordic countries where there was no significant difference in happiness levels between living alone or with other people
  
  2/ In England, older women rated their health better if they lived alone rather than with a husband however, men and women living alone had a higher mortality risk than those who lived with a spouse.
  
 3/ Older people living alone were more likely to be depressed, lonely and unhappy and to be less satisfied with life than those living with a spouse. 
  
4/ Those living with a relative or friend were more likely to be lonely than those living with a spouse.
  
 5/  Men living with a relative or friend were less likely to be happy or satisfied with life than those living with a wife. 
   
6/  In Europe, older women in Nordic countries living alone rated their own health as significantly worse than those living with a husband but this was not the case in Eastern and Southern regions of Europe. 

7/These associations did not appear to be moderated by the presence of other social ties - but this needs further investigation

The results from this study support the findings from Positive Psychology, which are that other people matter for our health and happiness.  In this study, people living alone were more likely to be depressed, unhappy, less satisfied with life, and also had a higher mortality rate.  The findings also show that who one lives with also matters: those living with a wife were happier than those living with a relative or friend.  European woman living with a relative or friend were happier than those living alone. To read the press release click here

 


 

 
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