Risk of late-life depression across 10 European Union countries: deconstructing the education effect

J Aging Health. 2008 Sep;20(6):653-70. doi: 10.1177/0898264308321002. Epub 2008 Jul 17.


Objective: Assess influence of education and noneducation-based measures of socioeconomic status on depression, illuminating the cumulative and income-adjusted effects cross-nationally.

Method: Cross-sectional study of 22,777 men and women (50 to 104 years) from 10 European countries. Individual-level data were collected from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE).

Results: Educational attainment was a strong predictor of late-life depression across all countries. Depression rates ranged from 18.10% in Denmark to 36.84% in Spain, reflecting a North- South gradient. Odds of depression were approximately twice as high among adults with less than a high school education compared with those of greater educational background (p < .001). Inverse association between educational attainment and depression remained significant independent of all other sociodemographic variables.

Discussion: Socioeconomic disparities in depression persist throughout later life. Variation in impact of education on depression cross-nationally illuminates need for future research into the protective effects of early-life education.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Educational Status*
  • European Union*
  • Humans
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors