Urban and Rural Differences in Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms in Later Life in the United States

J Appl Gerontol. 2022 Jan;41(1):148-157. doi: 10.1177/0733464820972527. Epub 2020 Nov 24.


Objective: This research has two primary goals: to examine the relationship between urban residence and trajectories of depressive symptoms and to investigate whether this relationship differs by social isolation and loneliness.

Method: Data are from 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults aged 51+ (n = 3,346 females and 2,441 males). We conduct latent growth curve analysis to predict both baseline and trajectories of depression based on urban or rural residency.

Results: Residing in urban or rural areas is neither significantly associated with baseline nor the development of late-life depressive symptoms. For females, the relationship between urban residence and baseline depressive symptoms is explained by socioeconomic factors.

Discussion: Findings of this study serve to better understand how social and geographic contexts shape long-term well-being of older adults.

Keywords: age-based growth curve; depressive symptoms; geographic differences; later life; rurality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Retirement
  • Rural Population*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population