Is Aging Depressing? The Relationship between Aging, Gender and Depression in Older Adults

Carla Medalia, U.S. Census Bureau

Empirical evidence is inconclusive as to whether aging is depressing and if women’s greater risk of depression changes with age. This paper examines the relationship between age, gender, and depression among those 51 and older using fixed effects regression for longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS). Results indicate that aging does not affect depression until age 75, after which aging increases depression for both sexes, and particularly for men. The sex gap in depression decreases after age 75 because age has a stronger effect on men’s depression than on women’s. Controlling for changes in social and health status reduces but does not eliminate the age effect. In conclusion, the measurement of age may explain the contradictory research on aging, gender and depression. A nonlinear measure of age, such as the age spline proposed in this study, accurately represents the trend in depression at older ages.

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Presented in Session 202: Health, Disability and Well-Being at Older Ages