Depression and driving cessation in older women

Depression and driving cessation in older women – the moderation effects of social engagement

Authors: Nancy A Pachana, Janni K Leung, Paul A Gardiner, Deirdre P McLaughlin

The University of Queensland

Driving cessation in later life and may be undertaken voluntarily, e.g. due to financial reasons or moving to a new residence where a car is not practical or necessary, or be required due to a medical condition. It is associated with a range of negative consequences, such as increased depressive symptomatology, less engagement in out-of-home activities, reduced social involvement and feelings of social isolation, restricted access to community services, and concerns and feelings about being a burden on family members or caregivers.

We conducted a study to examine if social support can buffer the negative effects of driving cessation on older women’s mental health. The sample included 4,075 older women (aged 76–87 years) in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. As expected, we found that women who ceased driving reported had poorer mental health than those who continued to drive. However, we also found that women remained active in their engagement of social activities were able to maintain a good level of mental health despite driving cessation. These findings support the role of social support as a buffer to declining mental health in older women who cease driving. Findings of this study are published in International Psychogeriatrics.

Cessation of driving in late adulthood is associated with a range of negative outcomes and may signal a reduction in independence for older adults. In particular, older women are more likely to be widowed and thus unable to rely on a spouse to provide access to transport. The role of friends and family to provide both transport options and social support may become increasingly important, as borne out by the findings of this study.

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