Self-employment, depression, and older individuals: A cross-country study

J Affect Disord. 2020 Mar 15:265:175-184. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.01.067. Epub 2020 Jan 16.


Background: Self-employment has become an increasingly popular occupational choice, and there are substantial mental health and well-being benefits that can accrue for individuals who remain active and engaged later in life. In this study, we examine the association between reduced depression symptoms and self-employment in aging workers.

Methods: Drawing from The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) data, our study examines a longitudinal sample of 35,717 individuals aged 50 years or older.

Results: Our results indicate that self-employment is negatively associated with depression among aging workers. Additionally, we find that this relationship weakens as aging self-employed individuals grow older, and that gender moderates this relationship such that older female self-employed individuals report lower depression symptoms than their male counterparts.

Limitations: Our sample is limited to European workers aged 50 years and older, and as such might have limited generalizability to younger self-employed individuals from other geographic regions. Moreover, although we control for factors that could play a role in the association between depression symptoms and self-employment (e.g. quality of life, personality traits, etc.), additional research will be needed in order to determine the potential mediating and moderating roles such factors might have on this relationship.

Conclusions: The results we present demonstrate the important and nuanced nature between self-employment and depression symptoms in aging workers. These findings call to light the need to continue to foster and develop systems and programs that help to facilitate self-employment for individuals as they transition into older ages.

Keywords: Depression; Elderly; Self-employment; Well-being.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Employment
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Retirement