Validating our profession 🙂
Taken from the Positive Aging Newsletter
It is widely reported that, with advancing age, there is an increase in diagnosed depression. Further, there is an increasingly strong tendency for psychiatrists to recommend drugs as the “cure.” At the same time, other forward looking practitioners are seeking means of combating depression without promoting pharmaceutical dependency. The present study adds strength to these latter efforts.
This study first clarifies how patterns of social activity are related to trajectories of depression over time. The analysis was done with a nationally representative sample of over 5,000 adults, 70 and older. The study was also longitudinal, assessing these individuals three times between 1994-2000. Of specific concern was the relationship between activity and depression. As it was found, many specific activities were associated with lower levels of depression. The activities that were most protective against depression involved participation in religious services, exercise, sports, movies and eating out. Also of major importance was talking on the phone with family and friends; this communicative activity was prominent among those who were least depressed. For women, social connection was one of the most significant insulators against depression.
Echoing reports from previous Newsletters, volunteering also had positive effects. In a related study, a third of the volunteers reported that they were “a great deal better off” because they volunteered, and two thirds indicated that volunteering benefited their families as well. Opportunities for volunteering that were most appreciated were those that encouraged involvement, provided adequate training and ongoing support, and gave stipends to volunteers. (Morrow-Howell, Hong, & Tang, 2009).
In the national survey, participants who said that they had ‘enough” activity also had lower depression levels. Interestingly, this finding suggests that one’s perception of what is “enough” is as important as the actual amount or type of activity. People may benefit from having the “right” amounts of activity for them. Consistent with this suggestion, doing paid work (especially for those who worked to meet basic needs) was associated with higher levels of depression,
In summary, “This research lends support to practitioners committing time and resources to facilitating older adults’ participation in a broad range of personally meaningful activities, thus promoting well-being and likely protecting them against depression.” (pg. 9).
From: “Structural relationships between social activities and longitudinal trajectories of depression among older adults” by Song-Iee Hong, Leslie Hasche, & Sharon Bowland, The Gerontologist, 49, 1-11.
Also: “Who benefits from volunteering? Variations in perceived benefits” by Nancy Morrow-Howell, Song-Iee Hong, & Fengyan Tang, The Gerontologist, 2009, 49, 91-102