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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2009 Jan;64(1):95-104. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbn002. Epub 2009 Jan 22.

Living alone and depressive symptoms: the influence of gender, physical disability, and social support among Hispanic and non-Hispanic older adults.

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Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, 08901, USA.



Is living alone a risk factor for depression among older adults? Previous research is mixed and inconclusive, and it is unclear whether living alone influences psychological distress independently of other interrelated risk factors for depression. We reexamine this association and evaluate whether it is contingent on gender, physical disability, social support, and Hispanic ethnicity.


We analyze data from a multiethnic sample of older disabled and nondisabled adults residing in Miami-Dade County, Florida (n = 947). We employ descriptive and multivariate analyses stratified by Hispanic ethnicity to assess the relationship between living alone and depressive symptoms and evaluate whether any association is conditioned by gender, physical disability, and social support.


Living alone is associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms among Hispanics but not among non-Hispanics. Variations in social support did not account for the higher overall levels of depression reported by Hispanics living alone relative to their counterparts living with a spouse, partner, or others. However, social support moderated the association between living alone and depression among both Hispanics and non-Hispanics.


We discuss the implications of our findings for future research, especially as they relate to observed ethnic differences in the relationship between living alone and depressive symptoms.

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