Depressive Symptom Trajectories among Recent Cohorts of Americans Ages 51-90: Differences by Gender, Race/Ethnicity, Education, and Birth Cohort

Leah Abrams , University of Michigan
Neil Mehta, University of Michigan

This study examined sociodemographic differences in mid- and late-life depressive symptoms over age, as well as changes over time. Using nationally representative data from the Health and Retirement Study (1994-2014), we estimated mixed effects models to generate depressive symptoms (CESD-8) over age by gender, race/ethnicity, education, and birth cohort in 33,280 adults ages 51-90 years. Women compared to men, low compared to high education groups, and racial/ethnic minorities compared to whites exhibited higher depressive symptoms. The largest disparity (2+ symptoms) resulted from education in midlife. Importantly, war babies and baby boomers (born 1942-1959) exhibited slightly higher depressive symptoms with more decreasing symptoms over age than their predecessors (born 1931-1941) at ages 51-65. Our findings have implications for gauging the aging population’s overall well-being, for public health policies aimed at reducing health disparities, and for anticipating demand on an array of health and social services.

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 Presented in Session 111. Demography of Mental Health