Background: Depressive symptoms are common in older adults and associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment. Leisure activities are often promoted for individuals with mood symptoms but few studies compare the effects of different types of leisure activities on reducing depressive symptoms.
Methods: Data were analyzed from participants enrolled from 2008-2009 in the Mental Activity and eXercise (MAX) Trial, which examined the effects of physical plus mental activity over 12 weeks in inactive older adults with cognitive complaints. There were no significant differences between intervention groups on the primary outcome of cognitive function or the secondary outcome of depressive symptoms; therefore, all participants were combined for the current analyses in which we examined changes in leisure activity engagement (Community Healthy Activities Model Program for Seniors (CHAMPS)), and changes in depressive symptoms (Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS)) as a function of changes in leisure activity engagement from baseline to post-intervention.
Results: Participants' mean age was 73.0 years, 61.6% were female, and 63.6% were non-Hispanic white. There was a significant change in total hours per week engaged in leisure activities from baseline (36.7 hours, SD = 12.7) to post-intervention (40.4 hours, SD = 15.7; paired t-test p = 0.02), and mean change in depressive symptoms was significantly inversely correlated with change in leisure activity hours such that increases in total leisure activity were associated with decreases in depressive symptoms (r = -0.21, p = 0.04).
Conclusions: Increasing the total amount of leisure activity levels may help lower depressive symptoms in inactive older adults with cognitive complaints.
Keywords: aging; depressive symptoms; leisure activities; mild cognitive impairment.