65 or Older? A New Study Says Living Here Could Cut Your Depression Risk in Half

Updated: Jun. 28, 2024

Researchers in Asia identified specific activities, and a frequency of doing them, that could help overcome the risk.

Maybe you’ve heard about the effects of loneliness on physical health—and on the flip side, the growing body of research that suggests an active social life increases the chances of a long, healthy life. A new study supports both trends by hinting that if you live in a relatively remote location, taking a little initiative to get out can help lower your health risks.

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With the World Health Organization estimating that around 280 million people struggle with depression, a June 2024 study aimed to investigate the rates of depression among older adults in China, depending on whether they lived in urban or rural communities. Using data from the 2018 Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey, researchers assessed depressive symptoms in a sample of 5,101 Chinese adults aged 65 and older.

The findings revealed a stark contrast between dwellers of rural and urban populations, with the rate of depressive symptoms in people who lived in rural areas 1.37 times greater than those who lived in urban areas. People in rural areas were also less likely to participate in social activities, with many socializing less than once a month or not at all.

Next, a couple more factors seemed to lower odds of depression the most. To start, the researchers observed that for people in rural areas, visiting others’ homes or interacting with friends only weekly, or less, led to a higher likelihood of depression. However, frequently playing games at least weekly, or even daily, led to lower incidence of depression.

In urban areas, none of these activities showed a significant correlation with depressive symptoms. This may suggest that simply going about life in bustling, energetic places lowers the risk of depression overall.

The researchers conclude: “This study underscores the necessity of targeted social interventions in rural areas to enhance social participation among the elderly and reduce depressive symptoms.” Staying engaged, and even lovingly competitive, can foster truly golden years while feeling both mentally sharp and emotionally supported.

These findings may help spur our wise senior folks to embrace opportunities to get out—and could help younger adults plan their later years accordingly.