Social networks and depressive symptoms among elderly women and men in Havana, Cuba

Aging Ment Health. 2008 Mar;12(2):193-201. doi: 10.1080/13607860701616358.


Objectives: To examine the main and the stress-buffering effects of social networks on depressive symptoms among elderly Cuban men and women living in La Havana.

Method: Information was gathered from a representative sample of the elderly population in Havana (n = 1905), as part of the SABE (Salud, Bienestary Enuejecimiento) study. Depressive symptoms were measured using the 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale. The structure and function of social networks were studied. Gender-specific multivariate logistic regressions were fitted to test the main (independent of stressors) and the stress-buffering effects (in the presence of financial strain or disabilities) on depressive symptoms.

Results: Social ties were associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms in women and men independently of the presence of stressors. Women who were or had been married, lived in an extended family, and enjoyed balanced exchanges with relatives and children reported low prevalence of depressive symptoms. Men were less likely to report depressive symptoms if they were currently married, and did not live alone. Social networks buffered the effect of financial strain on depression, but not in the event of disability.

Conclusion: In Cuba, networks centered on children and extended family were associated with low frequency of depressive symptoms, ruling contrary to common findings in developed societies. These living arrangements have an important role in buffering the impact of financial strain on depressive symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cuba / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Social Support*