Can Being Single Cause Depression?

Some people thrive in relationships, so they really struggle with being single. If that’s the case, it’s natural to feel down about your relationship status, but can being single manifest into depression? Being single doesn’t necessarily cause depression, but other factors, like your self-esteem, attitude, or life circumstances, can play a role in making you feel depressed about being single or make you more susceptible to depression in general.

  1. Being single does impact your well-being. Relationships are a huge part of our lives, so lack of one will have some impact on your mood or well-being. A 2015 study published in the journal Current Psychology found that single people reported lower emotional well-being than those in relationships. However, when it came to somatic symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other mental health issues, there was no difference between the single participants and those in relationships. So, being single doesn’t cause mental illnesses such as depression, but it still influences our feelings.
  2. It depends on your stance. Some people relish the opportunity to be single, while others cannot cope with being alone. If you’re the type of person whose self-worth and self-esteem are rooted in other people liking you, or you somehow always have someone lined up and ready to date right away after a breakup, then you’ll really struggle with being single. Research in Current Psychology noted that those who saw themselves as voluntarily single were less likely to experience poor mental health. In short, it’s about your perspective, not the circumstances.
  3. It depends on other circumstances in your life. If you already don’t have the best support system, then being single might make you feel depressed because you’re lonely. Relationships play a big role in our mental health, but so do our relationships with family and friends.
  4. A breakup can cause depression. Breakups can be devastating, especially when you thought you had a future together.  According to psychologist Lori Ryland, “Depression can be triggered by loneliness following a breakup, divorce, or death of a loved one.”
  5. Depression is not the same as sadness. Being single and going through a breakup can be difficult, so it’s natural to be sad. But sadness and depression shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Sadness is usually a reaction to something, like being dumped. Whereas with depression, you feel down or numb even when there’s often no logical reason to feel that way. Being single can make you sad, but it might not always mean you’re depressed, especially if the thing making you sad is your relationship status.

can being single cause depression

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  1. Being single can be stressful. While having relationship problems is stressful, being single can be stressful too. The older you get, the more pressure there is to get into a relationship and settle down. So, constant remarks about still being single or being pressured to go out and date when you don’t want to can be irritating to put it lightly. Feeling like you’re behind in life or failing to meet certain milestones can be pretty stressful – especially when everyone keeps reminding you of it. According to Husson University professor David Prescott, “It’s pretty clear that chronic stress raises the incidence level of depression.”
  2. Missing milestones can be upsetting. Everyone’s life moves at its own pace, so there’s no shame in having your first kiss, first date, first relationship, or first time later than everyone else seems to have done those things. With that said, it’s understandable to feel behind if you’re still single and have been single the whole time. Feeling like you’ve missed these milestones or rites of passage can impact your well-being. Again this depends on your perspective, some people are at peace with how things are, while others might feel desperate to just get it over with already.
  3. Unfulfilled life plans can bring you down. Some people go with the flow, while others try to plan out their lives meticulously. The healthiest approach is somewhere in the middle. While you can have a life plan, such as wanting to get married, have kids, and landing a dream job in the future, planning it all out year by year and setting strict deadlines can lead to disappointment. So, if your five-year plan included meeting your future husband by 25, getting engaged at 26, getting married at 27, and having a baby by 30, naturally, you’re going to be devastated when you’re still single at 26. Life is unpredictable, so don’t beat yourself up.
  4. Toxic relationships can destroy your self-esteem. Toxic relationships can do a number on your self-esteem. It’s hard to feel good about yourself if your ex regularly criticized you, cheated on you, or you’ve had a string of disappointing relationships and blame yourself.  Low self-esteem can make people more vulnerable to depression. You might think that you’d be elated to be out of a toxic relationship, but these things take time to heal from, so it’s natural to still feel depressed when you’re single. Again, if your self-esteem is based on men thinking you’re attractive, you’re going to feel depressed when your single because you self-esteem is in the gutter.
  5. Co-dependency makes you depressed. People who have co-dependency issues find it very difficult to cope when they lose their safe person, so they can take being single exceptionally hard. People who are co-dependent often have very low self-esteem and no independence; they believe they need their partner to function. This can entail relying on their partner for emotional, physical, or financial stability. Unaddressed co-dependency can manifest into depression, eating disorders, and more.


Aisling is a 20-something year old Irish writer who is the life and relationship guru of her social circle. She loves music, movies, and coffee.