Cultural engagement and incident depression in older adults: evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

Fancourt, D. and Tymoszuk, U. (2019) Cultural engagement and incident depression in older adults: evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 214 (4). pp. 225-229. ISSN 0007-1250 (print) 1472-1465 (online)

Abstract

Background: There is a recognised need for the identification of factors that might be protective against the development of depression in older adults. Over the past decade, there has been growing research demonstrating the effects of cultural engagement (which combines a number of protective factors including social interaction, cognitive stimulation and gentle physical activity) on the treatment of depression, but as yet not on its prevention. Aims: To explore whether cultural engagement in older adults is associated with a reduced risk of developing depression over the following decade. Method: Working with data from 2148 adults in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing who were free from depression at baseline, we used logistic regression models to explore associations between frequency of cultural engagement (including going to museums, theatre and cinema) and the risk of developing depression over the following 10 years using a combined index of the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and physician-diagnosed depression. Results: There was a dose–response relationship between frequency of cultural engagement and the risk of developing depression independent of sociodemographic, health-related and social confounders. This equated to a 32% lower risk of developing depression for people who attended every few months (odds ratio (OR) = 0.68, 95% CI 0.47–0.99, P = 0.046) and a 48% lower risk for people who attended once a month or more (OR = 0.52, 95% CI 0.34–0.80, P = 0.003). Results were robust to sensitivity analyses exploring reverse causality, subclinical depressive symptoms and alternative CES-D thresholds. Conclusions: Cultural engagement appears to be an independent risk-reducing factor for the development of depression in older age. Declaration of interest: None.

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