Background: Thus far, only a few longitudinal studies investigated the impact of social engagement on health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and depressive symptoms in old age. Therefore, we aimed to examine the impact of social engagement on HRQoL and depressive symptoms in late life.
Methods: Individuals aged 75 years and over at baseline were interviewed every 1.5 years in a multicenter prospective cohort study in Germany. While HRQoL was quantified by using the Visual Analogue Scale (EQ VAS) of the EQ-5D instrument, depressive symptoms was assessed by using the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). Individuals reported the frequency ("never" to "every day") of social engagement (e.g., engagement in the church, as a volunteer, in a party, or in a club) in the last four weeks. Fixed effects regressions were used to estimate the effect of social engagement on the outcome variables.
Results: After adjusting for age, marital status, functional status and chronic diseases, fixed effects regressions revealed that the onset of social engagement markedly increased HRQoL and considerably decreased depressive symptoms in the total sample and in women, but not men.
Conclusions: Our findings corroborate the relevance of social engagement for HRQoL and depressive symptoms in old age. Encouraging the individuals to start, maintain and expand social engagement in late life might help to maintain and improve HRQoL and decrease depressive symptoms.
Keywords: Depressive symptoms; EQ-VAS; Geriatric Depression Scale; Health-related quality of life; Old age.