Does Social Activity Decrease the Depression in the Elderly?: An Analysis of a Population-Based Study in South Korea

Friday, 25 July 2014: 11:25 AM

Seung Hee Lee, PhD, MPN, RN
Department of Nursing, The University of Ulsan, Ulsan, South Korea
Young Bum Kim, PhD
Hallym University, Chuncheon, South Korea

Purpose: Geriatric depression is a common condition in elderly Asian women including South Koreans. Geriatric depression also becomes an imminent challenging health concern with an increasing number of geriatric populations in Asian countries. In South Korean alone, the prevalence of probable depression in elders was 15.5% and increased with age (19.0% in female and 10.7% in male). The purpose of this study was to investigate whether social activity decreases depressive symptoms in elderly Korean women and to provide directions for future development of interventions to prevent geriatric depression.

Methods: For this study, we used the data of 2,114 women who were aged ≥65 years from the 2011 Korean Longitudinal Study of Ageing (KLoSA). This survey was a nationally representative study of community-dwelling Korean older adults for obtaining information on diverse aspects of ageing. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale 10, and the 10 + cutoff was applied to define the presence of significant depressive symptoms. Social activities were measured using the questions on the number of formal associations that the women were participating, the number of meeting close friends, and the number of contacting children living separately. The data were analyzed using multiple logistic regression analyses.

Results: After adjustment for potential confounders, frequent contacts with children and friends were negatively associated with depressive symptoms. However, the number of formal associations that the women participated in showed no significant association with depressive symptoms.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that encouraging informal social activity may protect against depressive symptoms in elderly Asian women including South Koreans. In order to confirm these results in other ethnic groups of Asian elderly women and to provide directions for future intervention development, we need further international comparative studies on the association of social activity to geriatric depression across Asian countries.