The East-West divide in late-life depression: Results from the Generations and Gender Survey


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Scandinavian Psychologist;


Norwegian Society for Psychological Science

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This study explores Europe’s country differences in depressed mood among older men and women and the role individual-level socioeconomic status, health, and social variables play in these patterns. We use cross-sectional, nationally representative data from the Generations and Gender Survey. The sample comprises 27,543 Europeans aged 60 to 80 from 10 countries. Depressive symptoms are measured with a sevenitem version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale. Findings show considerable between-country heterogeneity in depressed mood, especially among older women. An East–West gradient is evident, with rates of depressed mood up to three times higher in Eastern European than in North-Western European countries. Rates are about twice as high among women versus men in all countries. Among older women, the rate of depressed mood is 25% to 41% in Eastern European countries versus 14% to 25% in North-Western Europe. For men, these rates are 14% to 21% and 7% to 10%, respectively. The high prevalence of depressed mood among seniors in Eastern Europe, and women in particular, is explained by the high prevalence of health problems, poverty, and widowhood in countries of this region. Macro-level factors such as welfare provision and pension spending may moderate the exposure to, and impact of, some of the determinants. They may thus contribute to buffering against, or postponing, the risk of late-life depression in stronger welfare states.




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