Purpose: Community-level group participation is a structural aspect of social capital that may have a contextual influence on an individual's health. Herein, we sought to investigate a contextual relationship between community-level prevalence of sports group participation and depressive symptoms in older individuals.
Methods: We used data from the 2010 Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study, a population-based, cross-sectional study of individuals 65 yr or older without long-term care needs in Japan. Overall, 74,681 participants in 516 communities were analyzed. Depressive symptoms were diagnosed as a 15-item Geriatric Depression Scale score of ≥5. Participation in a sports group 1 d·month or more often was defined as "participation." For this study, we applied two-level multilevel Poisson regression analysis stratified by sex, calculated prevalence ratios (PR), and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Results: Overall, 17,420 individuals (23.3%) had depressive symptoms, and 16,915 (22.6%) participated in a sports group. Higher prevalence of community-level sports group participation had a statistically significant relationship with a lower likelihood of depressive symptoms (male: PR, 0.89 (95% CI, 0.85-0.92); female: PR, 0.96 (95% CI, 0.92-0.99), estimated by 10% of participation proportion) after adjusting for individual-level sports group participation, age, diseases, family form, alcohol, smoking, education, equivalent income, and population density. We found statistically significant cross-level interaction terms in male participants only (PR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.77-0.95).
Conclusions: We found a contextual preventive relationship between community-level sports group participation and depressive symptoms in older individuals. Therefore, promoting sports groups in a community may be effective as a population-based strategy for the prevention of depression in older individuals. Furthermore, the benefit may favor male sports group participants.