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Open Access Research article

Social participation reduces depressive symptoms among older adults: An 18-year longitudinal analysis in Taiwan

Chi Chiao1*, Li-Jen Weng2 and Amanda L Botticello3

Author Affiliations

1 Insitute of Health and Welfare Policy, Research Center for Health and Welfare Policy, School of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, China

2 Department of Psychology, College of Science, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, China

3 Kessler Foundation Research Center & Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, USA

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:292  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-292

Published: 10 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Relatively little empirical attention has focused on the association between social participation and depressive symptoms amongst older adults in Asian nations, where persons over the age of 65 represent a rapidly growing segment of the population. This study explores the dynamic relationship between participation in social activities and trajectories of depressive symptomatology among older Taiwanese adults surveyed over 18 years.

Methods

Data are from a nationally representative sample of 1,388 adults aged 60-64 first surveyed in 1989 and followed over an 18-year time period for a total of six waves. Individual involvement in social activities was categorized into continuous participation, ceased participation before age 70, initiating participation in older adulthood, never participated, and dropped out before age 70. Two domains of depressive symptoms--negative affect and lack of positive affect--were measured using a 10-item version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale.

Results

Analyses using growth curve modeling showed that continuously participating or initiating participation in social activities later life is significantly associated with fewer depressive symptoms among older Taiwanese adults, even after controlling for the confounding effects of aging, individual demographic differences, and health status.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that maintaining or initiating social participation in later life benefits the mental health of older adults. Facilitating social activities among older adults is a promising direction for programs intended to promote mental health and successful aging among older adults in Taiwan.

Keywords:
Depressive symptoms; Social participation; Older adults; Growth curve modeling; Taiwan