Roommates Can Drive You Crazy, But They May Also Save Your Life
> 7/27/2006 9:36:57 AM

Most people, if asked, would admit that their roommates, live-in partners or spouses can be a source of no small amount of grief. Whether it's cleaning up the bathroom or taking out the trash, there are endless iterations of things for roommates to fight about. But researchers in Denmark have also recently tied cohabitation, with anyone, to decreased prevalence of a heart condition known as acute coronary syndrome. Meanwhile, those who lived alone, the study found, doubled their risk for serious heart problems.

Speaking to New Scientist, researcher Kirstin Nielsen pointed out that those who live alone often lead much more unhealthy existences.

"People who live alone are more likely to smoke, have poor diets and increased alcohol consumption," says Nielsen. They may also be less able to draw on social support networks.

There has been a long history of research illustrating the benefits of a loving marriage from a health and longevity standpoint, especially in men. One would guess that, like roommates, a wife is often responsible for curtailing male drinking, smoking along with other generally unhealthy behaviors. In this way, the new research out of Denmark relates to this older research. In short, loneliness is pretty damn unhealthy.

Somewhat frighteningly, the trend of living alone has grown rapidly over the last 60+ years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1940 only 7.7% of the U.S. population lived in a single person household. By the turn of the century, that number had more than tripled to 25.8%. Movement in this trend has slowed considerably since 1980, but nevertheless, remains a strong health factor in many areas. As the team from Denmark has said, there is not a whole lot that can be done outside of preventative care strategies like PSAs to warn folks of health risks of harmful behaviors.

Obviously, no one would argue that people not be able to live alone, if they choose. But in areas like Washington, D.C., which has by far the highest percentage of folks in single occupant residencies, there could be discussion of publicly funded roommate matching services, or for subsidies that help already existing services reach a wider audience. As we've discussed earlier, Americans are often lonely, and apparently getting lonelier. It appears that simply adding a roommate, not even necessarily a friend, could help deal with some of the negative health aspects of this trend.

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