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Open Access Research article

A randomized controlled trial of a senior centre group programme for increasing social support and preventing depression in elderly people living at home in Norway

Hege Bøen*, Odd Steffen Dalgard, Rune Johansen and Erik Nord

Author affiliations

Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Division of Mental Health, P.O. Box 4404 Nydalen, NO-0403, Oslo, Norway

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Citation and License

BMC Geriatrics 2012, 12:20  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-12-20

Published: 20 May 2012

Abstract

Background

Late-life depression is a common condition and a challenging public health problem. A lack of social support is strongly associated with psychological distress. Senior centres seem to be suitable arenas for community-based health promotion interventions, although few studies have addressed this subject. The objectives were to examine the effect of a preventive senior centre group programme consisting of weekly meetings, on social support, depression and quality of life.

Methods

A questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 4,000 persons over 65 in Oslo, and a total of 2,387 completed questionnaires were obtained. These subjects served as a basis for recruitment of participants for a trial, with scores on HSCL-10 being used as a main inclusion criterion. A total of 138 persons were randomized into an intervention group (N = 77) and control group (N = 61). Final analyses included 92 persons. Social support (OSS-3), depression (BDI), life satisfaction and health were measured in interviews at baseline and after 12 months (at the end of the intervention programme). Perceptions of benefits from the intervention were also measured. Mean scores, SD, SE and CI were used to describe the changes in outcomes. Effect sizes were calculated based on the original scales and as Cohen’s d. Paired sample tests and ANOVA were used to test group differences.

Results

There was an increase in social support in both groups, but greatest in the intervention group. The level of depression increased for both groups, but more so in the control than the intervention group. There was a decrease in life satisfaction, although the decrease was largest among controls. There were almost no differences in reported health between groups. However, effect sizes were small and differences were not statistically significant. In contrast, most of the participants said the intervention meant much to them and led to increased use of the centre.

Conclusions

In all probability, the intervention failed to meet optimistic targets, but possibly met quite modest ones. Since intention-to-treat analysis was not possible, we do not know the effect on the intervention group as a whole. A further evaluation of these programmes is necessary to expand the group programme. For the depressed, more specialized programmes to cope with depression may be a more appropriate intervention.

Trial Registration

DRKS00003120 on DRKS

Keywords:
Elderly people; Social support; Depression; Prevention; Senior centre