Living arrangements and risk for late life depression: a meta-analysis of published literature

Int J Psychiatry Med. 2012;43(1):19-34. doi: 10.2190/PM.43.1.b.


Objective: The goal of this study was to determine the relationship between living arrangements and risk for depression among older people.

Method: MEDLINE, EMBASE, The Cochrane Library database was used to identify potential studies. The studies were divided into cross-sectional and longitudinal subsets. Qualitative meta-analysis of the cross-sectional studies and longitudinal studies was performed, respectively. For prevalence and incidence rates of depression, odds ratio (OR) and relative risk (RR) were calculated, respectively.

Results: The qualitative meta-analysis showed that older people living alone had a higher risk of depression than those not living alone (OR: 1.44; 95% confidence interval [95% CI]: 1.04-1.99); Relative risk (RR: 1.27, 95% CI: 0.89-1.80) and those living with families (OR: 2.59, 95% CI: 1.60-4.20). Older people living in a nursing home (OR: 2.90, 95% CI: 0.94-8.94; RR: 1.94, 95% CI: 1.18-3.20) or institutionalized setting (OR: 1.86, 95% CI: 1.37-2.52; RR: 2.03, 95% CI: 1.12-3.70) had a higher risk of depression than those living in home.

Conclusions: Despite the methodological limitations of this meta-analysis, living arrangements appear related to the risk for depression in the older population. Older persons living alone, in a nursing home, or in an institutionalized setting have higher risk for depression.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Homes for the Aged
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Institutionalization
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes
  • Risk
  • Single Person / psychology
  • Social Environment*