Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Social participation and mental health: moderating effects of gender, social role and rurality

Daisuke Takagi1*, Katsunori Kondo2 and Ichiro Kawachi3

Author Affiliations

1 Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan

2 Center for Well-being and Society, Nihon Fukushi University, 5-22-35 Chiyoda, Naka-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi 460-0012, Japan

3 Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:701  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-701

Published: 31 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Previous studies have reported that older people’s social participation has positive effects on their health. However, some studies showed that the impacts of social participation on health differ by gender. We sought to examine whether the effects of social participation on mental health differ for men and women in a Japanese population. We also examined the moderating influence of social position within the organization as well as urban/rural locality.

Methods

We used two waves of the Aichi Gerontological Evaluation Study’s longitudinal survey, which targeted residents with aged 65 years or over (n = 2,728) in a central part of Japan. The first wave survey was conducted in 2003, and the second wave in 2006. Depressive symptoms of the study participants were assessed using the short version of the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-15). A multilevel logistic regression model was used with individual-level as level 1 and the school district-level as level 2.

Results

We found that higher social participation and performing key roles in the organization had protective effects on depressive symptoms for women. However, there were no main effects of these variables for the mental health of men. We found an interaction between social participation, organizational position, and rural residence among men only. That is, men who occupied leadership positions in organizations reported better mental health, but only in rural areas.

Conclusions

Our findings support the notion that increasing the opportunities for social participation improves older people’s heath, especially for women. However, in the rural Japanese context, offering men meaningful roles within organizations may be important.

Keywords:
Japan; Social participation; Older people; Gender difference; Depressive symptoms; Key roles; Rural areas; Multilevel analysis