Age-friendly neighbourhoods and depression among older people in China: Evidence from China Family Panel Studies

J Affect Disord. 2021 Mar 4;286:187-196. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2021.02.081. Online ahead of print.


Background: Older population with depression symptoms reached about 64 million in China. Under the World Health Organization's (WHO) age-friendly communities framework, this study explored relationships between neighbourhood environment characteristics and depressive symptoms among community-dwelling older adults in China.

Methods: Data were obtained from the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS), a national multi-stage probability sample in China. The final analytic sample comprised 5,641 older adults in China. Neighbourhood environment characteristics were measured in three ways: objective facilities, interviewers' evaluation, and respondents' own perceptions on the neighbourhood environment. Depressive symptoms were measured by the 20-item version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Multilevel regression models were applied.

Results: Neighbourhoods with more exercise and recreational facilities, better interviewers' evaluations, and better objective respondents' perceptions on neighbourhood environment at a neighbourhood level were significantly negatively associated with depressive symptoms, but these association were influenced by respondents' demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status and respondents' own perceptions of neighbourhood environment at the individual level. On the other hand, respondents' subjective positive perceptions of neighbourhood environment at the individual level were also significantly negatively associated with depressive symptoms.

Limitations: The actual conditions of affordability, accessibility and utilization of public facilities and social services within neighbourhoods were not known.

Conclusions: This research extended the current knowledge of the associations between neighbourhoods and mental health among older adults, to promote ageing in place in China. Great importance should be attached to the improvement of both physical and social aspects of the neighbourhoods to develop age-friendly communities.

Keywords: Age friendliness; Depression; Mental health; Neighbourhoods; Older population.